Men's 2nd VIII Lents 2011-12 , Kingston Head
Novice 8+

In preparation for the Head of the River Race M2 entered Kingston head, which was rowed over a 5.2km course on the Thames. After our joyful Lent bumps results we were eager to show our prowess yet again.

The number of entrants was large, sporting all levels of rowing talent, and we did not quite know what to expect of the race. It was definitely going to be a long fought battle testing our mental and physical toughness. A challenge we all relished. We were also blessed with beautiful conditions, almost no wind, and even the sun came out just before the race, guns out time.

In our paddle down towards the start we enjoyed the width of the river, and did some higher rate pieces both to set ourselves up for the race, and to overcome a couple of motorboats upsetting the water. At the marshalling area we had to wait for quite a while. Whilst trying to keep our focus, we also got to observe some of the talent in the race.

Finally, our turn came, and we were all eager to seize the moment. Our rolling start was perhaps not as good as it could have been, but the important part was done as we got the boat speed up and settled into a nice rhythm around 34 strokers per minute.

We were happy to see the Imperial College novice boat behind us disappear into distance, and we soon engaged on our first overtake. We moved solidly through the Molesey boat in front of us, despite losing our form a bit, and some minor crustacean appearances in the six seat.

After our early overtake we were well set for the race, and began putting on a steady pressure. After coming around the big bend on the course, we began our second overtake, which we managed just before Ravens Ait. We pushed away from the crew we had overtaken, but soon some worrying signs started to appear. We lost some of the power, speed, and balance, which we had enjoyed so far. Even the rate began to falter. However, Catherine made some timely calls to wind up our rate a bit, and legs on pushes. These calls worked for a while, but the fact that Catherine had to repeat them several times before the finish is something we need to work on before HoRR.

However, we were embarking on our final push coming towards the two bridges on the course. The rough water under Kingston Road Bridge upset our balance a bit, and Catherine performed some eurosteering, snapping our rudder string. Remarkably, Catherine kept her cool, and still managed to steer us under the second bridge neatly. From here on, it was a push to the finish line. Our rowers were a bit unsure of the distance to the finish, and I feel that we could have pushed a bit harder, emptying our tanks completely.

All in all, a very satisfactory race result. We managed to beat most of the opposition in our category, and were also faster than Pembroke M2, the only other second division men's boat from Cambridge. This definitely served as good practice for Head of the River Race, as we have now gained some confidence knowing that we can manage longer distances. Also, thanks to Chris for subbing in for Rob!

Men's 2nd VIII Lents 2011-12 , Lent Bumps , Day 1
Corpus Christi

As the morning of the first day of bumps dawned, we went for our final session before the bumps to clear our heads a bit, and get ready for an exciting day of racing. We had performed solidly throughout the term, but with 7 members of the crew preparing for their first bumps race we did not quite know what to expect. On our paddle down to the start we got all of our focus concentrated on our own rowing, not minding what the other crews around us were doing. We did two practice starts, and gained yet more confidence in our own performance, as we engaged well and got the boat speed up nicely. After the one minute cannon had been fired, we focused on getting all the air in, and directed the adrenaline rushing through our veins into a powerful, but technical start.

The cannon went off, and the race was on. Our start was not the best we have performed, but we managed to leave St Edmund's comfortably behind us. When we got to our rhythm call, we managed a definite change, and a really powerful stroke, setting us up nicely. This was around the motorway bridge, and almost simultaneously we got our first whistle. From here we kept steadily advancing, and catching up on Corpus Christi in front of us. Catherine gave some good calls for pushes, and the crew responded well really picking up the boat speed. A bit after getting three whistles, our rowing got a bit choppy, as a significant proportion of our crew got to feel for the first time how rough the water gets in bumps. We lost some of our form, and for a while Corpus managed to hold the distance between us. However, we re-engaged, and for a while focused on being technical. When we had regained our form, Catherine called for another push, and we managed to bump Corpus just around the first post corner.

We can all be happy with the way we rowed today, bearing in mind most of us had not raced in bumps before. However, it is clear that this was not yet our best performance. Tomorrow, we have a day off, and a chance to refuel our tanks. On Thursday, we will be chasing Emma II.

Men's 2nd VIII Lents 2011-12 , Lent Bumps , Day 2
Emma II

Despite a fairly poor start, we gained our first whistle coming through the motorway bridge. The next two followed fairly soon as we stuck to our plan of not responding to the whistles and keeping our technique clean into the dirty water, and we bumped coming around first post corner.

Tomorrow we are chasing Queens' II.

Men's 2nd VIII Lents 2011-12 , Lent Bumps , Day 3
Queens' M2

We went into today knowing that this race would be crucial in terms of our overall performance. Despite bumping Emma II yesterday, we weren't quite happy with the way we had rowed, and wanted to make a distinct change to better.

Our row down was focused enough, and the two practice starts we performed were decent. After we had lined up in our position we had a good 10 minutes to check everything was well with the boat, and made sure we had a stellar concentration on the race to come.

We could definitely feel this in our start, which was the best one we have performed in bumps so far, even though there are still things to be corrected about it. We managed to close the gap between us and Queens' during our start, and coming under the motorway bridge, the water was getting quite choppy. Nonetheless, our rhythm call worked well once again, and we got our boat into a nice solid rhythm. As we got our first whistle, we faltered for a stroke or two, but did not let Queens' slip away. Two whistles followed soon, and we knew we were going strong, and were determined to keep it that way. We really started moving up on Queens', and after three whistles we pulled it altogether, and reeled Queens' in well before first post corner.

This was our best race so far, and everyone can be happy with the way we rowed today, coming together as a single powerful unit. Tomorrow we will be chasing Wolfson, and we look forward to the opportunity of really showing what we are capable of.

Men's 2nd VIII Lents 2011-12 , Lent Bumps , Day 4
Wolfson M1

Today was the final day of Lent Bumps 2012, and we were determined to finish our so far successful week of racing with a final blow. Despite the nerves, excitement, and some wind, we had a solid row down, and performed our practice starts in style.

As the four minute and one minute cannons went off, it really dawned on everyone how big the race today would be. However, we delivered a decent start, and started making our moves on Wolfson. Soon after the motorway bridge we started getting our whistles. The excitement, and rough water got the better of us for a moment, and we did not quite manage the decisive bump of yesterday. However, we were moving up on Wolfson, and everyone knew this was it. Finally, Nick started ringing the bell, and we went for it. The bump was made, and blades were won. What a fantastic feeling.

We can be really proud of our achievements this term. Bumping before first post corner on every day really shows the speed we had relative to other crews, and the determination with which we approached each race. While the bumps were made quickly, coming to the position where we are now has demanded supreme commitment and effort from our crew. Seven people new to bumps, and only two more experienced members does not perhaps sound like the ideal crew, but the advances each of us has made during our winter training camp in France, and the way we have come together as a crew during the term has been impressive. Obviously, we have been lucky to have such a variety of good coaches, of whom each has definitely helped us on our way to Lent bumps. With the wonderful feeling of having achieved blades, we look forward to the boat club dinner tonight.

Men's 2nd VIII Lents 2011-12 , Robinson Head
Lower boats

If we had not had much training as a crew before our last race, the same can definitely be said for this race. Due to the icy condition of the river, our last outing before the race had taken place more than a week ago. We therefore decided to keep things as simple as possible.

Bearing in mind our lack of recent training on water, we knew that our row down to the marshalling area was a crucial part of the race. We therefore aimed to unite as a crew again, and try to attain at least some form. Predictably, but unfortunately, the river was rather busy preventing most of our attempts to put on more pressure as a crew.

The race itself was rowed as a shortened course from the bottom of the Reach to the Bumps top finish. As the course was so short, it was vital to maintain good form and strong strokes throughout the course. Our start was a bit shaky, predictably so bearing in mind the lack of outings, but we soon settled into a sustainable rhythm and got some power down. We rowed through the Reach and past the Railway Bridge in a satisfactory manner, boosted by cheers from our W1 and W3 waiting to start their race.

However, for some reason, after the Railway Bridge we lost some of our focus and power. Our strokes were not at the level they should and could have been, and we lost our solid, powerful rhythm, which we had at the start of the course. With the recent increase in land training, it is doubtful that this was because we lacked the physical strength and endurance to finish the course, but rather the mental focus in executing every stroke technically. Towards the finish we managed to regain some of the lost technique and balance, but we were not completely happy with the way we had performed, knowing this was not our best.

With the results coming out, we were happy to find out that we were the fastest lower boat on the river, with only three faster crews ahead us. Something positive therefore emerged out of the race, and it was also satisfying to note that even with the lack of training, we had not completely lost our form. Lent Bumps coming up, it is of course encouraging to get good results from races, but above all, the race reminded us that it is vital to continue training with full focus, and aim at delivering our best (which we have not yet done). We would like to thank Tom Jackson for subbing for us, and our bank party, Nick, Kim, and Chris, for giving us the advice needed.

Men's 2nd VIII Lents 2011-12 , Winter Head to Head
Mays/Eights Division 2

The Winter Head to Head was the first race of the term for our crew, so we had no idea what to expect. The crew had made individual improvements on our training camp in France, but had only 3 outings together beforehand, and a sub for seven seat during the race.

Our main focus for the race was to have a good technical row. On the advice of our boatman we chose to approach each leg individually, and not attempt to save any energy for the second leg. We were all focused and determined to have a good first race, staying focused despite several mishaps on the way to the start.

The rolling start was strong and the boat stable which gave a good foundation for the reach. We soon settled on a sustainable (and consistent, impressive for a first-time stroke) rate 32/33. Our confidence was aided by the sight of Queens’ M2 falling behind us. Focus was strong on the last stretch, and maintaining the technique we pushed to the line.

In the pause after the first leg, we were excited to find out that we had only been 13 seconds slower than Christ’s M1. Meanwhile our boatman showed remarkable friendliness towards other crews by helping (with his tools) to fix a broken Robinson cox box.

Due to a slight injury in the first half, our two seat began the second leg rowing square blades. The power was more hesitant in this leg but we were still strong throughout, although failing to pull away from Queens’. Coming round Ditton corner into a slight headwind we found an extra gear, helped by our bank party announcing that we were beating M1’s time. We ended with a very determined row to the finish. Past the finish line, we were delighted to find out that we had beaten the time posted earlier by Christ’s M1.

All in all, an enjoyable race, and an encouraging start for Lent term. Having performed well in comparison to other M2 boats we are now focusing on working our way up to Lent bumps.