On Saturday, 25 November 2017, Queens‘ Women’s Novices boat “Jellies” set out for what was to be the first proper race for many crew members: Clare Novices’ Regatta. After a short night’s rest, our crew boated from QCBC boathouse at around 7:20 and headed towards the marshalling area at Plough Reach. Morale was high on the row-up despite the chilling cold as we warmed up and practised several race starts to prepare for the competition. None of us had ever been this far up the Cam, so we enjoyed watching the sun rise over the river and the misty fields. Our cox Leah stirred us safely through the uncharted waters, except for that odd time when we – totally unexpectedly, of course – bumped into the bank bow-forward and got us a nice chunk of bank as a souvenir. We arrived for marshalling well in time, skipped – which proved difficult, as the river was busy with other boats – and made ourselves comfortable to wait for our start. Or not so comfortable, that is, since the temperature was still freezing! Billie, our coach, advised us to keep moving in order to stay warm – although she forgot to explain just exactly how we were supposed to move while sitting in a narrow boat that was already close to capsizing because our oars were drawn in on the bankside! About ten minutes before the race, Billie noticed we had lost our bow-ball during our brief encounter with the river bank on the row-up, and left us to find a solution. Fearing we wouldn’t be allowed to start, we anxiously waited until our coach came back with a new one from god-knows-where that she and Leah cellotaped onto our bow without further ado. Thus equipped, we finally made our way to the starting line for our race against Downing College. After the signal, we all gave our best to row as quickly and as powerfully as possible, with our cox setting the pace and shouting commandos at us while Billie cheered on us from her bike. Sadly, Downing took the lead early on, and we were busy chasing them for most of the track. About mid-way through the race, we finally came close to catching up on their boat, but an unfortunate moment of several of us catching the crab in all the flurry slowed us down again, and we lost the chance to overhaul Downing. Nevertheless, we gave our best effort to reach the finish line not too far behind the winners. Since we had missed the chance to enter the second round, we immediately made our way back to the boathouse after we had finished, and many of us had underestimated how demanding this post-race work-out would be! As we finally brought our boat in, we were all completely knackered, but in high spirits – we had lost the race, but we’d had nearly two hours of very intense training, and we could certainly be proud of our commitment and the progress we had made. Most importantly, Clare’s was the first-ever race for many of our crew members, and will surely be an experience that we’ll never forget.
Report by Felicia