M1 – Bumped by Selwyn
By the third day, the mood had changed distinctly in M1. The previous evening’s chat-down had about as much joy as a funeral procession. As we got warmed-up on the ergs before today’s racing, there was once again joking and laughing. The catalyst in this transformation was, no doubt, Billy Joel’s classic: “We Didn’t Start the Fire”, which was blasting out of the CD player during our warm-up. The irony was that, alas, we DID start the fire – in fact, it was completely our own fault! It had been burning for about 5 weeks now, from the moment half of the crew decided that they couldn’t row and the VIII had to be abandoned. Still, here we were – 5 outings as a crew this term – trying our best to keep our sinking ship afloat.
Today the pressure had been lifted, for behind us were the mighty Selwyn (up 4 in two days) who had caught Catz by the outflow the previous day. Our race plan was simple – a flat-out sprint to First Post Corner, hoping to bump Emmanuel back before we succumbed to Selwyn’s ravenous claws. Now, it has to be said that flat-out sprinting wasn’t exactly our forte – but today was the perfect chance to really push our top-end speed.
Our warm-up was pugnacious – with a punchy practice start at the Plough. Our half-slide rate build along First Post Reach was also much improved – with the crew staying in range a lot better than on previous days. As we waited for the 3-minute cannon, you could sense the excitement and terror at what lay ahead of us … BANG! Draw-1, draw-2, wind-1 – we were off to a flyer! Within the first 30 seconds we already had a whistle on Emmanuel – our first whistle of the year! Coming through the outflow the boat lurched but we battled on – not letting the rate drop below 38. Halfway up First Post Reach our view become obscured by the white, yellow and maroon blades chomping into the churned-up water behind us. A couple of airstrokes later, we had capitulated and were consumed by Selwyn.
A day which had been made up of highs and lows, once again ended on a low. Our attempt at a fly-and-die had been described by one onlooker as a die-and-die. In 1 year we had lost both boathouse headships – in Lents to Churchill, and now in Mays to Selwyn.
W1 – Bumped by Fitzwilliam
We knew that Day 3 would be tough with a strong Fitzwilliam crew behind us on course for Blades. Nevertheless, we were determined to give it our best shot and our plan was to push away from Fitz and onto Magdalene at the start. As ever, we had a very fast start, this time winding it up all the way to rate 40. However, Fitz still began to gain on us fairly rapidly and so we knew it was another case of ‘bump or be bumped’. As we passed under the motorway bridge, we maintained a strong rhythm but as we came into First Post Reach Fitz started to get quite close. We dug deep, trying to hold them off for as long as possible, but as we came into First Post Corner they managed to get the bump, forcing us into the dreaded sandwich boat position. Nevertheless, it was a strong row, and we rowed home looking forward to the final day of rowing!
M2 – Rowed Over
The sun rose upon the town of Cambridge awash with the joy of knowing that never again would King’s M2 taste the foul curse of the spoon. Arriving at the boathouse that day, how could I ever forget! The cold steel of the past had vanished from the eyes of our crewmates, replaced with the beaming glow of optimism and hope.
Yet nothing in Bumps can be taken for granted, as William ‘The Colonel’ Miller astutely pointed to the crew as the boat was pushed out. An old Chinese proverb states that one should not fear to move forward, nor fear moving backward but only to fear standing still. I believe the spirit of that phrase was imbued into the hearts of the men of M2 that day, a spirit that would push us on further than we ever had been.
As it stood, our row-over the previous day had left us in a good position to do something rather wonderful. The fast Clare boat in front of us were chasing Clare Hall M1, who, on marshalling, looked like the tiny cowering figures from a Hieronymus Bosch painting, rather than a threatening group of rowers. Ahead of Clare Hall were the lucky boys of Corpus M2, big grins and all, who’d escaped us narrowly on the first day only to bump on the second. They’d been given a rather gloomy crew from Girton to chase, about which little was known. So, the order of the day was an overbump pure and simple. That was what we hoped for, that was what we dreamed for, that was what we rowed for.
Behind us, the Wolfson boat that had rather tepidly chased us the day before had been replaced by a beefy Hughes Hall boat, who had the look of a Russian Olympic Village’s level of steroidal power. This was a crew that had added to our misery in Lent, but we were confident we could quickly escape with a similar performance to the one the day before.
Like all the great stories, the beginning of this race was christened with an unexpected bang. Panic on the bank led to the crew hearing the gun at 5 rather than zero. It is indeed a testament to how far this crew has come that such antics did not entirely scupper the race. Though if one had seen the look on our faces when the cannon blasted early you would have seen abject terror, five strokes in and we had another aggressive start, putting some good distance between us and the Hughes Hall tanks.
And distance was the order of the day for much the rest of the race. Corpus and Clare bumped Girton and Clare Hall respectively in the Gut, giving us the clean water for a pretty row-over. Though one member of our crew, the gifted on the water Jamie Brown, thought the overbump was still on for the entirety of the race, the rest of us settled into the calm, sweet rhythm that all the training had prepared us for. I have heard it said that watching us row by that day was as natural as watching the River Cam’s beautiful native heron glide across the air. Composed in the manner of a symphony, together like a house of marble, choreographed like a Beyonce video. For indeed, in the words of our coach and Queen Amaretto: Beyonce was not built in a day and neither was this M2. The crew who spooned out of Lents and failed to sit a boat for 2 months was not the crew that came into the P&E with 3 lengths on Hughes Hall.
The heat made the final stretch to Chesterton footbridge a rather dog-legged affair. Yet the grit remained to the very end of this second successful row-over. A splendid spot of rowing and now, all we needed was a bump!
As the sun dawned on King’s W2’s third day of their May Bumps campaign, the shine of blades lingered playfully upon their minds. Yet a beast ahead stood in their way, the hulking pink mass of Churchill W2, who were spurred on by their previous day’s +5 overbump; and held bitter anguish for King’s over day 1’s pile up which denied them a Medwards feast. To make matter’s worse, ahead of Churchill lay a spannery spider of Fitz who were on a spoon-esque descent from the higher division.
W2 – Rowed Over
It could be a day of two races. The first point of action would be to use our blistering fast start to take the tail of Churchill before Fitz fell into their pink gums. Upon failing this, the glory of an overbump (on Cav/Hughes W2) shone ahead as W2 narrowly missed one in Lent.
The arrival of our coach St. John was all that could relive our tensest start line nerves to date. But alas as the gunpowder ignited so did W2 explode from their start with enough force to shatter the waters. The gains came fast on Churchill by any standards but ours, as they remained unbumped by first post! As the first corner came our Cox diverted attention from rallying cries to taking the slickest racing line the Cam has surely ever seen. Bowside blades mere inches from the bank, King’s glided out of the corner with bow ball stabbing wildly about Churchill’s Cox. But about the cool demeanour of our boat blasted a double set of overlap whistles. Fitz had failed to fight on and had sunk into the claws of the pink-beast-of-the-hills.
SNAP! TAKE THE RUN OFF! Wheres the bank? Us or them? Stop or row? Where’s the umpire? Where’s the bank? WILL YOU ROW US TO THE BLOODY BANK PLEASE!?
Churchill had found their next meal and King’s had been repayed a technical row-over. Dreams of blades had been sent down but John was glad he got to see a more exciting bit of racing. And Fraser got his birthday bump in the end thanks to Tirion’s boathouse antics.
Good crews go up 3, lucky crews get blades, amazing crews go for ice-cream afterwards.