Race Reports 2014-15

Lent Bumps 2015 - W1

Day 1

Coming into Lents this year, W1 were filled with confidence, having crept under the notice of most towpath speculators but knowing were just as fast as the Jesus crew that were being predicted to blade to second. More importantly, we knew for sure that we were quicker than the boats immediately ahead and behind us. In contrast with last year's crew, everyone in the crew was a year more experienced, with a combined 84 days of bumps racing between us. Thus, as we awaited the gun on Day 1, we knew that we would be able to put all the pressure to one side and row our own race. Murray Edwards behind us would be looking to try and prove their point in the battle of the all-female college, but we weren't worried about them at all.

Our only real concern on that first day was whether we would be able to catch Queens' before they caught a worryingly slow Catz, but knowing we had no real control over what happened there, we just had to row as hard as we possibly could. Starting at Station 10, the start was a good one and we immediately started to draw away from Murray Edwards and into Queens'. By Station 3, we had our first whistle. However, shortly after that Queen's themselves started getting whistles on Catz, who utterly capitulated under the pressure, and were bumped shortly into the Gut. Nicole did a beautiful job of coxing us past the two freshly bumped out crews in the narrowest stretch of the river, and subsequently past Jesus and Clare, who'd bumped out on the inside of the exit of Grassy.

From here, the tale is typically one of settling into head race mode and pushing away from the crew behind whilst your bank party and cox pretend that the overbump hunt is on. And we did continue to push nicely away from Murray Edwards, who had never made any inroads into the gap. However, there was no pretending about this particular overbump hunt!

As we came onto the Reach, we did a racing restart to get the power up again, as it had flagged a little on thinking our shot at bumping was over, and set about steadily cruising into a Caius who had come onto the Reach five lengths ahead, but were dying spectacularly. Coming under the Railway Bridge, and being told to keep going to top finish (as the crew starting 10th, we had the choice of top or bottom finish), we knew that something might actually be on, and cheered on by all the watching M1s, we kicked it up another gear, and were rewarded by a whistle from Mat. We were just one length off overbumping Caius W1! However, the course was just that little bit too short, and so despite our giving absolutely everything, Caius wriggled out of our grasp. Never before have I wished for the Bumps course to be longer!

There was of course, a fair amount of disappointment that the chance for blades had slipped through our fingers through no fault of our own, we were incredibly pleased about how we'd rowed. Overbumps are, rightly, incredibly rare in the top half of the first division, and that we had come so close was something to be very proud of. Taking 5 ½ lengths out of a crew like Caius W1 confirmed that we were the fast crew we knew ourselves to be, and meant that other people would start taking notice.

By Hayley McDermott

Day 2

So, after yesterday’s intense start to Lent Bumps 2015, going straight for the overbump without much introduction, we were all really pumped up for today. Although we didn’t actually overbump Caius, closing 5 ½ lengths and getting so close to them confirmed the feeling that we had about this crew: we are fast and we can hold it together. Knowing that we didn’t have too much to fear from Murray Edwards, who didn’t come anywhere near us on day 1, it’s confident and looking up that we paddled down to the start. Having all done bumps before and the usual fear of the cannons on the first day being out of the way, we all managed to keep calm and had a great start. Then everything went really fast from there; indeed it was all over in a mere 1 min and 53s!

Hearing that we were closing right from the start and getting our first whistle on Catz during our start sequence as we came under Newnham Bridge meant that we slightly failed to stride down, but by then, we all knew it was just a matter of time. The second whistle came soon after the first one and then Catz just yielded. I personally heard 2 whistles, followed closely by Alan doing his traditional distance count-down… but starting from 2 feet. Despite being one of the europeans in the crew for whom 2 feet doesn’t really mean anything, I’m pretty sure it’s significantly less than ½ a boat length! Before we reached First Post we heard the long awaited call of ‘HOLD IT UP’ from Nicole and there we had it, our first bump of the week and Newnham W1’s first bump since Lents 2013! After having cleared the river quickly, it was followed by much celebration, as one would expect for a first bump for that crew, a first bump ever for a couple of rowers and a first bump in a long time for a few others ! And most importantly for those of us who were in that same boat last year it was a first taste of revenge after our difficult Lents 2014 campaign… and it felt sweet 

Mat had apparently decided that we hadn’t worked hard enough today yet, so we did a rolling start and a race piece past the Plough on the way back, although most of us were mainly worrying about our greenery risking to be blown away by the wind any second! We were back at the boat house quickly and all really looking forward to tomorrow, having the feeling that our ascencion would not stop there.

By Agnès de Varine

Day 3

After the first W1 bump in two years the day before, it was unanimously agreed (by Newnhamites at least), that greenery rather suited W1, and more of it should be acquired at the first opportunity. And we were rather confident it wouldn't be that long a wait for some more, as we were now starting a mere length and a half behind Caius, who of course we had taken 5 ½ lengths out of and nearly overbumped on the first day. With Catz now behind us, we were solely focused on reeling Caius in.

The rowing itself was pretty straightforward, we steadily gained on Caius, got the first whistles around the headship station, kept rowing as we had been, and bumped them halfway down the Gut. This was a particularly satisfying bump, not solely because Caius had wriggled out of it two days prior, but also because for the majority of the crew (myself included), the first time they had ever been bumped had been when Caius had caught W1 on the first day of Lents 2015. Revenge did taste rather sweet!

Unfortunately, the satisfaction was rather short-lived, as subsequent events unfolded rather dramatically. Having bumped in the Gut and pulled in, we were very conscious that we were in the narrowest part of the river and drifting out would likely cause issues for the crews still racing behind us. Nicole did an excellent job of keeping us as tucked in as possible and most of the crews made it past us with no issues whatsoever. And then Girton arrived, under heavy pressure from Tit Hall, forcing them to go wide around First Post and head straight towards us. The Girton cox realised the danger and steered past with inches to spare. Tit Hall however were so fixated on the possibility of bumping that they had fallen into the trap of steering for the bump rather than taking the racing line. This put them even wider than Girton, with no chance of being able to avoid crashing into us. Here, a sensible cox would have held it up and restarted, rather than run the risk of rowing into a stationary crew. However, Tit Hall were so desperate to bump Girton that no effort to hold it up was made until the 2 woman's blade was approximately six inches from Nicole's back, despite warning shouts from both us and the bank. Fortunately, I had been able to see what was happening and dragged Nicole down into the footwell so I could attempt to fend off the incoming blades. It was extremely lucky that Nicole in particular was not seriously hurt, and we would all be lying if we said we were unhappy to see Tit Hall punished with both a technical bump against them, and a substantial fine.

A bit shaken up, but still happy with our performance, we limped home, and made sure that our freshly damaged rudder would be usable for one last day of bumping action, which we were now even more psyched up for than ever!

By Hayley McDermott

Day 4

Given the drama of the previous day, we can be forgiven for plotting our attack on Clare such that we would bump on the widest possible part of the river, where we would be well out of the way should Tit Hall wish to have any further adventures!

However, as soon as the gun went, our competitive spirit took over, and a little over two minutes of hard rowing later, we found ourselves pulled in at First Post Corner, having just recorded our third bump of the week on Clare W1!

Having timed our bump to beautifully coincide with where W2 had stood to cheer us on, we celebrated there, and collected the biggest greenery yet for our victory row home. Once back at the boathouse, we decided it was of course necessary to crack open the champagne and give Nicole a nice cold bath in the Cam (purely to help the bruising of the day before of course ;) ), before heading back to college and BCD.

We were of course sad to have missed out on blades, but we rowed extremely well all week, and can be very proud of proving the saying that “great crews go up three”!

By Hayley McDermott

May Bumps 2015 - Summary

W1 – Down 2 – Rowed over, Rowed over, Bumped by Christs I, Bumped by Girton I
W2 – Down 2 – Rowed over, Bumped by Homerton I, Bumped by Pembroke II, Rowed over
W3Up 4! – Bumped Anglia Ruskin I, Bumped Girton II, Bumped St Catharine's II, Bumped Selwyn II

Queens' Ergs 2014 - NW1

11 November 2014

As someone who grew up on a desert island, rowing was never on my list of potential hobbies. However, armed with an Australian sense of competitiveness, I set off as a novice to join Team Gold at Queens Ergs.

Tuesday night arrived and as we were baptised with Newnham coloured war paint a quiet hush descended on the room. No longer were we distracted by the relatively impressive biceps of male crews surrounding us – we were here to win. After some warm up drills and a quick team photoshoot, it was time for the first heat. We pulled well, coming in second in the heat and through to the final.

Having silver win their divison as we waited for our final turn was a massive kick up the proverbial – Newnham hadn’t won a division before and the pressure was on! The final produced some definite PBs and more screaming than a One Direction concert filled with tweenagers who really should know better and will live to regret their music choices when they grow up. My personal highlight was having the marshall point ‘number 1’ with excitement as we pulled into first place with 7th rower before our 8th rower smashed it and drove us home for Newnham victory!

Singing “we are the champions” with the team later, it struck me that Newnham victory wasn’t having ‘the star’ rower that other colleges had in their possession – we simply had an overall team of strong rowers who consistently pushed themselves. That was the winning difference. And drinking champagne out of our tankard trophies made all the pain and our new sexy calluses SO worth it.

By Kate Crowhurst

Winter Head 2014 - W2

15 November 2014

After pushing off a bit late in an attempt to get the novice boat spick and span, W2 had to hurry down the river in order to marshal before the race. Once we got over halfway down, however, disaster struck and Mona in 4’s shoes had unattached themselves from the footplate. Because of the large number of boats on the river it was difficult to sort the problem out and in an attempt to get to the side of the river where Mona could actually get out of the boat to fix the problem, I was told W2 handled a very tricky and intricate spinning situation beautifully. The space we had to spin in was limited but we kept our cool and followed Alicia’s orders.

The other boats then all started to row down to start the race and we were left last so that we could do our best to deal with the footplate situation. After hurriedly wolfing down the last minute sugar boost of jelly beans Alicia passed down the boat, we were told to set off and off we went.

For many of us, this was our first ever race and we had not had our final outing before the race nor had we done that many race pieces before, so we were kind of thrown in the deep end, but they say that’s how you learn best! And so we pushed and pushed with Alicia encouraging us to keep going and not stop even when our bodies felt like they couldn’t cope anymore. Theresa in 3’s footplates came off in her attempt to push her hardest, but like a champion, she kept rowing as best as she could. She carried on so flawlessly that it wasn’t until we crossed the finish line that anyone noticed something so drastic had happened. Given these conditions, I think our efforts were heroic and now that all that went wrong, there’s nothing Fairbairns can throw at us to phase us anymore. I’m also quite proud that we didn’t catch any mythical crabs or ejector ones during the race, so let’s hope that remains true for Fairbairns!

By Patricia Perez

Clare Novices 2014 - NW4

28 November 2014

Up against Clare NW2 in Clare Sprints we knew this race was going to be a challenge. The weather was pretty mild and conditions were good for race day. Newnham's NW4 Vikings approached the starting line at the reach on the meadow side with confidence. And that was where it started to go slightly downhill. Drifting over to the bank we tried to straighten ourselves, with the marshals shouting instructions from the other side. Our cox Charlie kept her cool and managed to successfully get us into a good starting position.

'Attention, go' and we were off. The first draw strokes were strong and together, but it was as we sped up that we got out of sync. Magali subbing in at stoke did an admirable job of setting a good stroke rate, and after a bit of a shambolic start we eventually fell into place. Our coach Charlotte shouted encouragement from the towpath and after Clare's smooth start we caught up half a boat's length to follow just behind them. By the time we reached the railway bridge we had picked up a good rhythm and were managing to hold our position a boat length behind Clare. This continued to the end, and we crossed the finish line knowing that it may not have been our best start, but at least we worked together as a team to finish well. Overall, a good first attempt from NW4.

By Anna Rowell

Senior Fairbairns 2014 - The IV

5 December 2014

Fairbairns. Cold, long, and painful. Happily slightly less long for IVs than VIIIs. Cold and pain still applies though!

We were the 2nd last boat to go off in the division, being chased by our own Gryphen's IV, so spent a pleasant afternoon critiquing everyone else, lending some support to the Cantab's IV that was essentially half NCBC, and managing to persuade the JCBC Captain and Fairbairns Sec to give us the cheer of "NC NC NC! BC BC BC!".

Eventually the rowing thing started, and, as had happened through the term, because none of our coaches were anywhere nearby to see it, we actually rowed quite nicely, with a sat boat and no rushing. Indeed there was some disbelief from the stroke seat when Nicole told us we were already at our target rate of 30! The first half of the race continued as such, with some of our best rowing of the term, by the P&E we had caught the Murray Edwards boat that had been given an increased start gap over us. Nicole's shout of "MURRAY EDWARDS! MOVE TO THE LEFT!" injected a brief moment of happiness as we cruised past them and left them behind.

Halfway down the reach the distance started to tell, and we began to fall apart a bit. With help from our injured member Izzy on the bank we got through that, and smashing out of the last corner to finish very strongly. Helped by the finish being sooner than we all thought it was!

Fairbairn's survived, we broke out Alan's mini Daim, and then swapped Nicole to the stroke seat to attempt to row home. This lasted approximately three strokes amid much panic over actually having to do some exercise, so we swapped back and settled for playing music over the coxbox speakers.

It was our best row of the term, and a great way to finish the term in the IV before we head back to the VIIIs for Bumps next term. Massive thanks to Mat and Alan for persevering with our inability to row nicely when they were trying to coach us, and also to Hele for failing miserably at quitting rowing and filling in for Izzy's injury.

By Hayley McDermott

1st IV before Fairbairns

NCBC goes in Seine - Les Régates en Seine 2015

31 May 2015

Taking "off-Cam" racing to its logical conclusion, at the end of May NCBC sent a crew to Paris to compete in the Régates en Seine, a side-by-side regatta with a course taking us right past the Eiffel Tower!

It being the height of exam term, the crew was not any of our bumps crews, but a composite made up of current and former first boat rowers, with a special guest appearance from Sarah Allen, whose Blue and three boat race appearances were deemed to make up for not having rowed for Newnham W1...

The crew lined up as follows:

Cox: Nicole Fowler
Str: Hayley McDermott
7: Sarah Allen
6: Agnès de Varine
5: Jenna Dittmar
4: Charlotte van Coeverden
3: Izzy Wiggans
2: Hele Francis
Bow: Francesca Benzi

For obvious logistical reasons, we were unable to bring one of our own boats across, and so borrowed one from our host club. It was very entertaining to arrive and locate our appointed boat, a nice heavy wooden boat that may well have been older than everyone in the crew. Even funnier was when we realised that every other crew racing had brand new shiny Empachers... Oh, and there was no coxbox speaker system... Hey ho, such is life, we had a boat that we were reasonably confident would float, and would just have to do the best we could with it.

After rigging the boat, receiving strict instructions that we all must match our kit exactly (even the cox...) and confusing our hosts by not doing a land-based warm up, we boated. Or attempted to boat. Rather embarrassingly we'd managed to attach a rigger in the wrong place, necessitating a very quick re-rigging before finally boating successfully, onto a Seine that was rather more bouncy than it looked!

We were not expecting to be up off the start, given that (a) we'd done a whole one practice start as a crew together and (b) were in the heaviest boat we'd ever rowed in... So, we were pretty surprised to find ourselves a length up 10 strokes into the race, and moving away rapidly!

Sadly, it was downhill from there, as bow's seat then decided that remaining on the slides was optional, and wouldn't go back on. Essentially now rowing in sixes, with those in the stern having no idea what on earth was going on behind, our opponents began to move through us and took the win. However, despite being a pair down for the best part of 500m, we lost by only a canvas.

Naturally, it's always disappointing to lose races due to equipment failure outside our control, particularly given that we were reasonably confident that we would have done well in the regatta without those issues. However, life goes on, and it was an incredible experience to be able to race as NCBC on the Seine!

By Hayley McDermott

NCBC race past the Eiffel Tower