by Nina Faure Beaulieu, stroke
There was no better way to end the term than a crew trip to London to take part in Women’s Eights Head of the River Race. Following on such a successful Torpids for all of our crews, this race was an opportunity enjoy rowing with a little less pressure on our shoulders, as well as a great chance to step out of the Oxford rowing bubble. For three of our rowers: Meryem Arik, Hannah Asiki, and Eleanor Fielding, this would be their first tideway race - and more importantly, their first distance longer than the Isis 2k! Our cox, Olivia Murray, had also never coxed the tideway before and was going to have to change from her usual calls of the last week that had mostly been about how close we were to bumping! Luckily, Amanda Thomas was experienced with WEHoRR and talked Liv through important info such as bridge order and getting used to being shouted at by marshals.
In the morning, after fuelling ourselves on pancakes and nutella, we set off to Cygnet rowing club where Marlow RC had very generously offered to let us borrow a boat. We arrived to witness a lawn filled with rows and rows of boats from rowing clubs from all over the country. With so many boats waiting to go on the river, WEHoRR chaos quickly settled in and after a stressful hour of rigging, to heads, to waist, to heads again, to shoulders, and queuing, we were finally off! The wait to our race was long but far from boring. We were all very excited to be on a river three times the width of the ISIS and this was evident from the numerous times Olivia had to ask some of us (Juliette & Meryem - captain and novice) to keep our heads in the boat…
Finally, when it was our time to start, we picked up the pace and shot out of Chiswick bridge ready to take on this 6.8km course. The race was tough and long but guided by Olivia, we overtook two crews and did not let anyone overtake us. We didn’t get bumped during Torpids and we sure as hell weren’t going to get bumped on the Tideway! The push off Hammersmith bridge was nothing like any of us had experienced before: with hundreds of spectators cheering the boats on it really felt like we were part of something big. After crossing the finishing line, we were all exhausted but enjoyed a row back snacking on large amounts of chocolates. During the race we managed to move from position 199 to 159 with a time of 21.31, which was definitely a feat to be proud of!
This was a fantastic end to Hilary term, leaving the girls hungry for Summer VIIs and ready to tackle holiday training to prepare for more bumps success next term!
compiled by Catrin Haberfield
This Hilary term saw our most successful Torpids since the 1980's! Both W1 and W2 managed to win blades, and our M1 crew moved up to division 2. A massive congratulations to all involved! Some of our W1 crew have put together race reports for each day of racing - read them below and watch their blades-winning moments while you're at it.
Day 1 - The View from the Cox's Seat
The first day of Torpid is always rife with excitement and tension in the air. I was feeling sick and shaking with nerves - but I had been firmly warned by the 'Grandma' of the club that nobody was to talk about pre-race nerves, so I kept my mouth shut and got myself into the boat. The launch drove past with someone from OURC looking like they were Daenerys sailing for Westeros in the last episode of Game of Thrones, revelling in all of their power. We pushed off and spun quickly; Meryem, W1's only novice rower, was completely overwhelmed and not listening to a word I was saying – great, just what I needed! I just hoped that she could concentrate and keep it together in the race. I was cautious of the time, so we did one practice start and then headed up to our bungline (number 6). I spun and quickly got us tucked into the edge, ready for the poleman to come and hold us into the bank. We were chasing St Catz, who I knew we would catch quite easily, as I’d heard from various sources that they were having a terrible year and so weren’t very good. As we were waiting and my crew were taking off their excess layers, Catz finally arrived, somewhat resembling the boat that we entered into Christ Church Regatta last term!
The 1 minute cannon fired, and our lovely poleman pushed us out into the river, the bungline stretching tightly behind me. With about 20 seconds to go, we all came to front stops and squared up – at last, Torpids was starting! The final cannon fired, and I shouted in my race voice: “Draw 1, draw 2, draw 3, now let’s wind it up, bring up that rate, and now let’s spin the hands, spin 1, spin 2”... and that was pretty much how far I got through the start sequence (about 7 strokes) before I shouted to tell the girls that we were a metre off and it was time to go for the bump. I’m not going to lie – our rowing was pretty shabby compared to how we could actually row, but we were absolutely destroying them! I decided out of kindness for them that I would pull out and go for a blade on blade clash – that way they could get away quickly and cleanly. Within 20 – 25 strokes of starting, the Catz cox raised her arm to concede, and I steered us away towards bowside and stopped under Donnington Bridge (yes – we bumped before the bridge!) so that we could wait and stay nice and dry out of the rain. Everyone was super happy, and somewhat confused about what had just happened – we had never bumped within 20 strokes before! When the launch passed we rowed back to the boathouse, still pumped and full of energy, ready to continue our successful journey to blades victory!
- Olivia Murray, cox
Day Two - The Captain Speaks
The bump on St. Catherine’s had been a simple one. Without even finishing our start sequence we had stopped before Donnington Bridge. Trinity would not be so easy to catch, and it would be the first proper test of how we could row as a crew. On top of that, we had to keep away from Green Templeton behind us, who were rumoured to be fast - but more importantly contained one of my tutors (as if her tearing apart my essays wasn’t bad enough)! Getting bumped was definitely not an option. We were anxious to get to the start line on time again; throughout our warm up I could feel a determined energy within the boat. As we upped the rate to get everyone going the boat seemed to pull together, gliding across the water. We felt quick, efficient and strong. The question running through my mind was "would this be enough"? I had visions of Thursday 2016 running through my head, where a tangle with Jesus had cost us a bump, and possibly blades as we went on to bump every other day. After the ecstatic atmosphere the day before, the weight of ambition seemed to hang over the boat as we sat on the start line. At least today it was not pouring with rain.
Hearts pounding in our chests, we come forwards. We square our blades in the water. The cannon goes - we're off. The boat moves through the water, we are ready for a longer race. GTC encroach on us off the start, but we can see it. As we pass under the bridge Liv makes a call to push, the whistle goes. Everyone is determined. GTC begin to fall away from us, soon they aren’t anywhere near. Lungs burning, hearts pounding, legs aching. The whistle goes again as we enter the gut, “One last push! Their cox is looking scared!” shouts Liv. And we all push together, propelling forwards as a team towards the stern of Trinity. It feels incredible. And then we are done. It’s quick and clean, we paddle out of the gut to clear the race line and hover near long bridges. Day 2 done. Bring on Day 3.
- Juliette Perry, 5
Day 3 - The Dream of Blades is Still Alive
Friday arrived, bringing new anticipation and excitement - along with a bit of extra pressure! Would we be able to catch Teddy Hall soon enough to hold off Green Templeton? For a moment the day before it had looked like they were gaining on us. Surely this was our toughest test yet.
By this stage of the week I had a touch of paranoia about sticking to my routine, down to eating the exact same lunch. Each step felt familiar as we gathered in the boathouse, warmed up, got the boat on the water, and had our motivational talk with coach Ian. We were all expecting to have to row longer and harder, but just as on the previous days, I could feel everyone’s determination to go out there and fight. Once we were on the water, Olivia kept us calm and lightened the mood with her customary comments on the surrounding environment. We paddled up, putting in a couple of bursts and starts, and found our friendly pole man waiting for us. Soon we heard the five minute gun, and then began the countdown. It was time to put aside any worries and just row as hard as we could, for as long as we had to. The canon fired, and we were off!
The first twenty strokes passed in a blur. We began to lengthen out and put down extra pressure as we came under Donnington Bridge, and suddenly I realised I could hear Ian’s whistle blowing - not just for a length but for a canvas. This was it, we were catching them! From the 7 seat I could see GTC getting left behind, as we powered on. We could hear from Olivia’s voice that we were gaining, and suddenly, she told us they’d conceded - hooray! We’d bumped Teddy Hall just as quickly as Trinity the day before, in the middle of the gut. As we rowed over out of the racing line, catching our breath, I was filled with a mixture of relief and excitement. Three bumps in a row! I was already looking forward to lining up behind Balliol the next day.
- Amanda Thomas, 7
Day 4 - The Final Push
The last day of Torpids was here and along with it, for some of us, our last bumps campaign ever. We were within touching distance of blades. Everything came down to whether we could catch Balliol, who were on for spoons, while keeping our cool in front of Green Templeton, a crew we knew would push us hard. We knew we could do it, but everything needed to go to plan.
Heading down to the bunglines, it seemed like everyone on the towpath was cheering for Somerville. The weather suddenly turned for the worse, and as we waited at our station the cannon was delayed and the rain started pouring down. Olivia our cox kept us calm as we got colder and colder. Yesterday had felt like the race of our lives. Nina said we rowed so well that she got goosebumps. Our coach Ian said today he wanted even more.
As the starting cannon went we knew what to do. The race itself was a blur. Before I knew it we were half a length off Balliol, and then next thing I knew Olivia had tucked us into the bank and we were celebrating. We bumped before we had even reached the gut. A huge rain shower started and we cheered as Green Templeton zoomed by, also on their way to blades. It slowly started to sink in - we had done it! The fact that W2 also got blades made the celebrations for the rest of the day even more special for all of SCBC.
- Frances O’Morchoe, bow