The week after Bumps, Queens’ took to the Thames for a stab at the big one – Women’s Eights Head of the River Race. 320 boats, 2880 competitors, 1 race. We were excited, we were determined and we wanted so badly to beat St Catz and take back what had happened the week before. The atmosphere was exciting – boats along Putney Embankment, rigging up and getting ready to go. Crazy coloured visors, knitted bobble hats, eccentric lycra and group stretching as far as the eye could see. This was our final race of the term. Potentially our final race as a crew. We had learnt so much this term and this was our chance to show it. There were no cannons to startle us, no boats 1 and a half lengths away trying to catch us. We could row a race how we wanted – from start to finish as a crew. We boated, got ready and pushed off. Our row down to the start was, in a word, awful. Excited and distracted by the Thames, the new boats and the new water we were all distracted and not really concentrating. We found the fire though, when we got ourselves a new enemy in the form of Putney Town C crew. Their cox forgot to hold it up and they ploughed into us at least 3 times on the way to marshal, including a particularly dramatic hit when their number fell off and their 2-girl broke her seat. We had someone to rage at…we were chasing them and we were going to beat them. Waiting in the boat for 2 whole hours, we were a little apprehensive about the likelihood of someone needing to wee. But luckily we all held it in. Finally, after 263 boats had gone before us it was our turn. Spinning and reaching Chiswick Bridge we began our start. We were off. With no dirty water to upset us and no Catz breathing down our necks we did a fantastic start. Winding to 39 and settling at a sustainable 32 we were off. After about 2 minutes we had a boat in our sights. Anisha called for a boom and we surged. One boat down. This was our race. Coming under Hammersmith Bridge, a call to sit up and to lengthen had us back to our great rhythm from the start. We could feel ourselves getting tired but Anisha had found us a new target. There were two boats ahead, Putney Town were trying to overtake a boat. We boomed. Moving between the two boats we did a double overtake. Anisha was ecstatic (she loves a good overtake) and the crew were spurred on again. One final push away as the crew tried to challenge us and we had broken free. With 500m to go, Anisha called ‘You’ve taken Bedford….you took Bumps now let’s storm the Thames’. We surged, Moseley Boat Club were 2 lengths away and we put in out final boom. Emptying the tanks and closing them down we crossed the finish line with about half a length between us. We were spent. We’d put in an absolutely fantastic race. Overtaking three crews and not being overtaken once, we were absolutely chuffed with our performance.
The results came out and we were over the moon: 111th out of 320 boats. We had come 4th in our division. We had been only 2 seconds slower than Newnham and had beaten Murray Edwards, Robinson, Selwyn, Sidney and (best of all) St Catz. Out of the Cambridge Colleges we were 5th, a performance we could be so incredibly proud of. The term had been epic. We had been epic and WEHoRR was the perfect way to end a term where we had grown as rowers and as friends.