Sunday, 6 March 2011

Lent Bumps - Day 5

There's always a slightly different tone on the final day of Lents in comparison to Mays. Of course the weather isn't as pleasant, and the crowds aren't as big, but most of all I find it weird because it's still two weeks from the end of term. With Mays, and even Fairbairns to an extent, there's no continuation of work once the rowing stops. I've got four supervisions in the next three days, most of which I've not done the work for because I've been distracted by rowing, and it's now hugely biting me in the ass.

Anyway, M2 finished fairly strong yesterday with an extremely lonely row over as pretty much all the boats in front of us bumped out, leaving us with only Churchill M1 at the top of the division to hit, which was never going to happen. Sidney M1 rowed fairly hard behind us, but they never really threatened too much and after the first minute or so we pulled away from them and it was pretty much job done.

W2 bumped, so completed a week of making fairly neat progress up the starting order for the second boat. Not the blades that the crew got last year, but still not bad for a crew almost entirely full of novices, and I guess things are only going to get more difficult as the boat moves up, although I'd say things are still fairly random at the bottom women's division.

The main celebrations kicked off with W1 rowing over (aside from a collision with some geese) to get the headship. I was still back at the boathouse at this point, so only had dodgy CamFM commentary to go on, but it sounded like it was pretty comfortable (aside from a flock of geese being on the river).

M2 cycled up to the meadow on the Reach to join the crowd watching the M1 division. It was tense as fuck, and even after the starting gun went off it felt like we were waiting forever for the crews to come round Ditton and into sight. All we could hear for ages was the noise of the crowd further down the river, and whistles from the bank. As the boats came round and into sight, Caius were pretty close, and they made a pretty huge push out of the corner which pretty much obliterated the gap. For a while we hung on where it seemed like every stroke would potentially be the bump, but eventually Craig's blade hit their bow and it was all over.

What felt the worst at the time was the silence. Nobody really said anything - we all just stood around shell-shocked and speechless. Even when we were back at the boathouse and they'd taken the boat out we still all mostly just stood around looking dejected. The girls came back from their lap of honour, and it didn't really feel like they'd just gotten headship. In some ways the men had sort of spoilt their party, which if anything at least shows the solidarity between the men's and women's squads this year. Then Ian had a chat to the crews, and we got over it somewhat and the smiles broke out a bit more.

I said to AOL and Dangerous earlier on the day that it was probably for the best that Caius were behind us on the last day. Aside from it being the grandstand finish to the week, it at least let there be a fair fight at the top of the division. It didn't matter which crew came out on top, they'd be able to say without a doubt that they'd earned it. Sure, the double headship would have been fantastic, but it would have taken things away from it somewhat if we'd never properly faced Caius to claim it for certain. Fair play to Caius, they are massively quick, and they thoroughly deserve their headship. There's no shame whatsoever in losing to a superior crew. We're still up there to fight for it next year.

And besides, the women got their headship, so we still got to burn a boat. The boat was, much to my absolute delight, the Rev. Kinsey - quite possibly the most uncomfortable boat I've ever had the displeasure to cox in, and I don't think any of the Downing coxes who have sat in it were particularly unhappy to see it go. It's like they specifically designed the cox's seat to have sharp bits of wood sticking out wherever you made contact with the boat. I coxed it for my entire novice term in May 2009, and by the end of bumps it had completely worn away the skin on my lower back and I was bruised to hell from sitting in it.

It's a huge, heavy wooden boat, though it's tank-like features have come in useful in the past...

W2, Mays 2006

W2, Lents 2008

W3, Mays 2009

I'm the cox in the final picture, though we actually mounted the bank after being bumped, whilst trying to clear the river a little too hard and whilst the boat behind us completely failed to hold it up after hitting us.
Some of those pictures might be down to the fact that the boat is actually a complete bitch to steer. I coxed in it in Michaelmas whilst taking novices out, and even when I'm not a completely incompetent novice cox, I still found it hard to get the hang of the handling. The rudder on it is absolutely tiny, and the handles aren't properly attached to the steering lines, so moving the handles doesn't actually do anything for the rudder, and it's difficult to judge exactly when you're steering straight.

The Kinsey did have one final awkward moment before we carried it back to college and burnt it to cinders. The boathouse is on the other side of the river to the college, and rather than take a large diversion to take it over a bridge, we instead pushed it across the river. Except it didn't get across the river. It stopped dead in the middle.

Ian told me to go get it, and I laughed at his hilarious joking, and yet somehow five minutes later I was taking my layers off, handing my phone and keys to people, and lowering myself in the river to get the fucking boat. Not only was it fucking cold, but it was ridiculously deep at that point in the river. I'm not a particularly tall guy, but I've been in the Cam before and it usually comes up to about my waist. When I lowered myself in yesterday it came up practically to my shoulders - to the point where I thought "fuck it" and just swam instead of wading in to get it. By the time I was in past my ankles any lasting sentiment I had for the boat I noviced in was long gone.

Ben Pierce did an awesome job of making sure I got my wet shirt off and put some layers back on, before we walked the boat to the college. We'd mostly gotten over losing the men's headship by this point (or at least, those outside of M1 had) and were starting to get into the party mode. I had a much-needed shower once we got back, and we reassembled on the paddock to burn the boat. Accidents in previous years meant that the crew weren't allowed to jump over the boat (or anywhere particularly near it for that matter), but it was still a good party.

And that's pretty much it for rowing this term, aside from a few races at the tail end (Cardinals should be pretty good fun). Bumps are over, so back to the grindstone for the last couple of weeks. It's been a good week, and aside from M3 getting spoons (lol) and the final day for M1, it's been great fun as a club, and really, the results overall have been strong. It's not quite as good as it could have been, but at the same time we're also missing four strong guys and Lizzy to the university crews, and I'd say we've ended up in a far better position than we'd have predicted halfway through Michaelmas. Bring on Mays.

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