On Sunday 17th April the J18 girls quad(3 of us are actually 17 – but rowing with Bea means we enter as J18) travelled to St Ives to compete in their 150th Anniversary Heat to Head race. They had very kindly agreed to lend us a boat as the trailer wasn’t going it was just our crew.
We arrived very early at their well-equipped boat house in the middle of St Ives. They are really lucky, their brick built club house has a bar area with comfy sofas and a balcony which overlooks the landing stage(as well as pictures of a very young Victor on the walls). They have their own gym with ergos and weights machines as well as an open floor space. They even have inside loos and showers with hot and cold running water!!!
Everyone at the club was very friendly and made us really welcome, particularly Gary. The course was originally 1700m each way, but had been shortened by approx 150m as the current was very strong and making the 2 bends at one end of the course almost impossible to navigate.
Members of St Ives boat club who usually row in the coxless quad that we used were very helpful and lifted the boat out of its very tight spot onto trestles for us. As we lifted the boat onto the water we realised that it was bigger and heavier than we were used to rowing and the shoes were huge. We were allowed to go off for a short paddle to inspect the first corner and have a few minutes to get used to how the boat handled, then it was back to the start and ready to start our division. Our opposition were crews from Huntingdon and Oundle. Huntingdon had already raced in the first division and Oundle were set to start immediately behind us, which was great because we could see them.
We were first to go in our division, but the going was hard even from the start because of the stream and the wind. The whole leg seemed to take forever and we could see Oundle behind us. We were convinced that they were gaining on us, but no matter how hard we tried we couldn’t seem to move any faster! As we approached the end of the first leg we weren’t quite sure where the finish was and so we didn’t get the chance to do a final push. Because we were first in our division we had to wait for everyone else to cross the line which meant that we got a long rest. We spun and waited for the instruction to go again, we had to keep backing down as the stream was trying to push us back down the course. While we waited we discussed our race so far, we knew that Oundle were close, possibly even faster than us on the first leg, we knew that we had to give it our all and go as fast as we could in the second leg. We all thought that we could still win, but we knew we had to give it everything. Eventually we went off for the second leg, it started well and felt much easier than the first leg, we felt positive and went off fast, Oundle hadn’t spun when we left and so the starting gap between us was much bigger, this made it harder to tell who was faster. The race still looked really close, but we felt confident that they hadn’t gained on us anymore. The second leg flew by and before we knew it we rounded the last corner and gave a great final push for the finish line…now all we could do was wait and see, we had no idea what the result was likely to be!
The St Ives men’s quad crew lifted the boat off the water for us and put it away and it was as we were putting our blades away that we made an exciting discovery. There, proudly sitting on a rack against the wall was a boat named after a very famous man…you’ve guessed it…our own Victor Bridges. We were very excited and had our photo taken with it as proof of the momentous discovery.
Back up in the boat house bar we waited impatiently for all the other crews to finish and the times to be calculated. After what seemed like an eternity Gary printed out a sheet of the division 2 times and laid it on the table. We knew we had to beat 12.11, the time set by Huntingdon in division 1, then we saw our time 11.21…so not last…finally we found Oundle’s time 11.30, we had beaten them by 9 seconds! We had a great day thanks to everyone at St Ives rowing club and now each have another pot to add to our collections.
Our preparation for the Bumps started with our customary 16 mile row to Cambridge with a mixed crew made up of our Men's and Women's eights. Pleasant weather helped as we relaxed into a steady row from our club house in Ely, arriving in Cambridge 4 hours later. The only discomfort was felt by Duncan as the crew shouted abuse at him from within Bottisham Lock.
Our men's crew rowed first. 7th bung in the 3rd division, under the bridge (right next to the cannon). Our casual start did not take City 9 by surprise but we settled into a good rhythm and started our procession to the finish. Our prey then bumped Champs 6 at first post and ahead of them Cantabs 8 bumped Champs 5 leaving us nothing ahead to chase so we settled for a row over.
Our women's crew raced next. 9th bung in the 2nd division giving them the option of chasing to the railings. A good start saw them move up on Champs 5, quickly taking half a length, but then tiring around grassy corner, falling back again and suddenly in danger of being caught by City 7 the crew rallied behind stroke Liz Kerr and pulled away again opting for the short finish at Ditton post for a row over.
Men's crew. 7th bung again (cannon just as loud). This time our casual start caught Champs 6 off guard and we quickly stole a bump at first post after just 30 strokes. Ahead of us City 9 bumped Champs 5 setting us up well for the next race.
Women's crew. 9th bung again but a disastrous start saw stroke lose her seat and despite a determined attempt to keep going the race was forfeited as smoke from Liz's backside was considered a fire risk! An easy bump for City 7 and the women moved down one place.
Men's crew. 6th bung put some distance between us and the cannon but outflow from the drain kept pushing us away from the bank. The cannon fired, the crews adrenaline was up, but with no perceptible effect on our start, which remained casual. Our advance towards Champs 6 was steady and we quickly took half a length while leaving our opponents from the previous night in the distance. Our quarry quickly exhausted themselves, having opted for a sprint which they couldn't maintain, and as we rounded grassy corner we steadily closed the distance and finished them just before The Plough. ahead of us City 9 kindly bumped Cantabs 8, again setting us up for the next evening.
Women's crew. Still smarting from the night before they took their position on the 10th bung, determined to recover their position on the river. The race started well and Ely moved up on City 7, closing to half a length at Osier Holt but a poor line at Grassy Corner left the crew exhausted and Rob Roy 3, seeing their chance, pounced and the women dropped another place.
Men's crew. 5th bung but the torrential rain made us nostalgic for our more sheltered position under the bridge. The crew had opted for a fancy dress theme of "Star Trek: To Boldly Row" and so sitting at the start, in our Starfleet uniforms, we waited for the gun. Our, now legendary, casual start was feared by our opponents and proved to be as effective as previous nights as we quickly settled into a powerful steady rhythm, advancing towards Cantabs 8 and closing the distance to a length by Grassy Corner. Deploying our bowside thrusters we maintained a good speed and course around the corner, ready for our planned "warp factor 10" from the cox. Extra power surged from the crew, the boat leapt forward and bumped Cantabs at the plough before they had time to react.
Women's Crew. Desperate to right the injustices they had suffered the previous two nights our 'Ladies Wot Row' had abandoned their customary head scarves for more practical shower caps for the battle ahead. From the start their superior pace and strength overwhelmed the less experienced Rob Roy 3 crew, who had bumped them the night before, and by First Post corner they were celebrating a bump and regained one position on the river.
The combined efforts of our two crews meant that we finished 2nd in the John Jenner Trophy moving up two places overall.
For more images visit the Cambridge Evening News Gallery.
Tim Dodes, Andrew Kearney, Alasdair Jones, Duncan McCulloch, Ed Miller, Richard Maxey, Ashley Wykes, Orlando Buhay and Simon Burge.
Liz Kerr, Alison Crowley, Jill McCulloch, Nicki Powell, Lyn Haynes, Jane Atkinson, Rachel Watson, Anna Relton, Jo Yarker and Teresa Aslett
Cox for both crews was Christian Schosland