“NINE MEN, ONE BOAT”
“HOW TO CRAB AND CRASH, AND STILL ROW OVER”
Today’s row-over left the entire crew with a bittersweet feeling. It was an incredibly heroic race, as you are about to discover in the next lines.
The day started with us rowing downstream towards our position on pretty solid steady-state paddling and two practice starts, one of which ended up inconveniently by bumping the railway bridge.
We got to our position not long before the 4-minute cannon. We had a great umpire who had previously coxed for Christ’s, and had some final advice for Ardi and myself. As we heard the first cannon, we switched on. The crew was silent, focussed, visualizing our goal. Downing, behind us, seemed pretty strong, but Queens’ were weak, and we knew that. With the one-minute cannon we started falling into the correct bumping mindset. Countdown came and we were pushed off. Come forwards. Square blades. Six, five… Off we go!
Our start was incredibly solid. We had great coordination throughout the entire crew. Ardi’s calls on the start were accurate and timely. We were flying. You could tell by the excitement of the bank party that we had done quite well on the draws and winds. We heard the first whistle: we were really close to Queens’. Downing was not really gaining much on us. Two whistles. Wow, we hadn’t even rowed past First Post Corner. Three whistles! We were about to bump Queens’!
Then it happened. Stroke came off his enormous shoes, got distracted by one second, and caught a massive crab that almost sent him into the water.
Keep rowing! Don’t lose it! Everybody in the bank was just about to go into the water and help me recover my oar. Ged and Ardi effectively pulled the handle out and in front of me, and I managed to recover, settle, get back into my seat and shoes, and keep rowing. But it was already a bit too late. Queens’ managed to escape our fury, and they were probably 2 lengths ahead. Fortunately, during the frantic seconds of the crab, we realised that Downing had already been bumped by Girton.
Unfortunately, FaT was already in sight, and they were thirsty for bumps, since Girton had managed to escape away. We kept the focus and gained around a length on Queens’.
Then it was time for bow side to push hard. Ardi was suddenly struggling to get the boat around Grassy Corner. Bow side kept pushing, but the calls and the pushes were not enough, and for the second time in 500 metres, we completely lost it.
FaT was just going around grassy when we restarted. It seemed apparent from the bank that it was all lost. A horrible feeling of disappointment was surrounding us. Most of us were already picturing the horrible line on the bumps chart, indicating Christ’s V, down 3, overbumped. FaT was only a couple of feet away.
But we were not going to let that happen. A couple of push-for-ten calls from Ardi kept us moving. It was a constant overlap-gain battle between FaT and us. We are strong. We can do this. We will not get bumped. Adrenaline was pouring out of the Sir Hans. We got strength out from somewhere, and suddenly we were already a quarter of a length away from FaT. We saw the railway bridge as we passed underneath it. This is almost over, but not quite yet! We kept pushing away from FaT, who seemed to have given up. But we wanted to keep rowing strongly; more experienced crews had had overbumps before just because of overconfidence. So we pushed hard for the last 400 metres, rowed past the next division’s crews proudly, and found ourselves exhausted, but incredibly happy, with what we had achieved.
This day gave a very valuable lesson to our crew. Things can really go wrong, but after all, it is just matter of keeping the spirit high, the minds clear and the team united. It was not the best race, and we were clearly disappointed with what happened at the beginning, but satisfied by the way in which we recovered and fought back.
We will get Queens’ tomorrow.