Getting on Race (Mays 2016) – M3

King's M3 after the race

The Getting on Race (GoR) was the first race that the present M3 had competed in. The crew was made up mostly of novice rowers who had only started in Easter term. Despite this, with lots of help from soon to be men’s captain, Neil Paul, they had progressed and improved phenomenally through the 8 weeks; and with every outing kept getting better. (As Joe Gaffney would put it ‘Gains’)

However, in order to get on to the May Bumps Races M3 had to qualify for division 6. The GoR was on the 3rd June, and saw King’s M3 compete against 34 other crews for one of the 17 spaces in division 6. The race was a 2k time trial between the motorway bridge downstream to the more upstream railway bridge. The final outings before the race had been focused in practicing the race course and we had performed some strong pieces, and those who coached us were really impressed.

It was going to be challenging race, yet, we were feeling rather confident about our chances. It was the first time everyone was in kit and our boat, the Lady Joanne, had been given some much needed TLC by us, Neil and Will in the morning. Also over the term, M3 had come together well as a crew with a bond emerging between the new novices and the more experienced seniors through friendships developed in the outings. The race would test the new plucky M3 crew against more experienced crews at race pace across the winding river Cam.

The day of the race was not a typical summer day, it was cloudy and slightly damp. Not even this Geographer could change the weather, we had to remember the weather doesn’t control us. We had decided on a rolling start through the motorway bridge and this is where the training stopped and the race begun. The start was strong, the improvements across the term could be seen. In fact, after the winds we had reached rate 44! This was really impressive as we came into the lengthens after the motorway bridge. We were quick, no doubt about that.

Then the Lady Jo was quickly approaching First Post Corner and the immediate challenges afterwards of the Gut and Grassy. We lifted the boat out of the corner and kept up good speed around Grassy. Bowside performed especially well in getting us around Grassy, cheered on by me and the motivational bank party. So far form and technique had been maintained with long strong strokes across some of the more difficult areas of the river.

But, as we entered Plough Reach the struggle began. Our rapid start, and speed through the corners, had begun to affect the crew. Although race inexperience started to show, there was no signs of giving up by anyone. This was shown clearly on Ditton Corner. After I shouted are strokeside pressure ready for the corner, a confident cry of “yeah we are” was immediately echoed down the boat. Corners, like Ditton, had been taken rather well throughout the race, but my inexperience showed, losing the racing line a few times. Nevertheless, this was made up for by the sheer power M3 continued to place in the water, with timed ‘LOCK-ON AND DRIVE!’ being responded to well by the crew in the force put down.

The reach was the most challenging section of the course. It is long, straight and offers little in visual landmarks. This made it difficult for the crew to judge how long they had left, and made it more important for me to spur them on until the very end. Strokes began to shorten, airstrokes and timing issues started to plague the crew, but no one wanted to disappoint the bank party that helped us throughout the term that had come down to see us in our finest hour. As I screamed with the remains of my voice, “empty the tanks”, “give it everything”, “drive it through the legs!”, M3 responded and never gave in; and in doing so, performed a little minute burst that got us passed the railway bridge. We had completed our first race as a crew, and we couldn’t be more proud.

Sadly, despite all our hard work, M3 didn’t get on for Bumps. Our time was just over 8:30, 30 seconds over the slowest qualifying time. Although we were saddened by the news, there was much to take away from the race. First, how much everyone had improved since the start of term. The majority of the crew hadn’t rowed in a race before, and this was after less than a term of rowing (in exam term!). Whereas, other crews on the race had far more experience in rowing and races; and had been together, in some cases, for years. Secondly, it was fun. The best part of rowing are the races themselves: the build-up first of nerves, then excitement and adrenaline is something truly special. Finally, the support and help we had received from throughout the boat club, from the bank party on the day to the coaches and other crews that had given us encouragement. The GoR had consolidated 9 individuals, from different countries, ages and subjects into a single crew. Anyway, we’ll get them next year.