M1 – 4th in IM2 in 6:30, 3rd in IM3 in 6:22

On Sunday 10th February Queens’ M1 headed to what was most of the squads first off-cam race ever. Due to Bedford being called off twice the previous year due to flooding the squad was always unsure if it would go ahead but conditions in the run up were good even if it did rain the entire day! First Race IM3 – 3rd in a time of 6:22

With the novelty of being on a new bit of river and having to go under some very small bridges out of the system Queens’ M1 had a powerful row to the start and then much entertainment watching the other boats come and marshal. Going off second in the division behind a stacked Star crew gave us something to aim at as the crew wound going under the bridge.

The start felt powerful as the crew found a solid rate 36 rhythm as the first 500m were really attacked. At this stage in the race the rowing felt long and strong and the rate was easy to maintain. This however didn’t last as through the middle 1k the crew hit a not insignificant head wind causing the boat to slow and the rate fall to a more natural race rhythm. With patches of the middle kilometre not as nice as we would have liked when the call for 500m to go the crew really picked up again giving everything down the finishing straight before collapsing over the line.

The first piece was very much a work in progress with some good patches such as the start and finish and some not so good patches particularly through the middle part of the course. Second Race IM2 – 4th in a time of 6:30

The crew took on board the thoughts about the first race and went into the second with the view of having a slightly more controlled start to really set ourselves up to attack the middle part of the course.

Unfortunately by the start of the race the crew was now thoroughly soaked and not warm and the first part of the race showed this. The start was a little bit rocky and a little bit frantic and it took longer for the crew to settle. In addition the wind had picked up and between 500m and 1k the crew didn’t deal that well being buffeted around and catches starting to hang a little. In the patches with less wind the crew started to grit in falling back into the powerful cruising rate that has been about all term and the boat accelerated over the latter half of the course. Calling the finish push early you could feel over the last few strokes that the boat was on its limit with nothing left to give as the combination of two races, the head wind and giving it everything.

The results were alright but the crew was a long way behind Downing who were the major challengers that were present. With only a few weeks left before bumps the crew will have to continue to make a lot of changes to be able to challenge at the top. Stroke - Mark Varley (c) 7 - Tom Bury 6 - Matt Chipping 5 - Rob Emery 4 - Helge Dietert 3 - Jack Robinson 2 - Matt Edmondson-Jones Bow - James Edgley Cox - Bronwyn Jones W112th in IM3 in 7:57, WINNERS - Novice in 7:44

Our first off-Cam experience as a crew came two weeks after Winter Head, during which time we had seen massive improvements in crew both individually and as a squad. Derigging the Duchess of Cambridge for her first race away from home, we set sail in a convoy of cars for rainy Bedford. And the rain fell…and fell. Luckily, we found shelter in a local MacDonalds to warm up and get changed before going to set up. Our row down to the first race was a little shaky as everyone took in the sights and sounds of a brand new river experience. After marshalling for what felt like an age, we finally dekitted and got ready to go. Opting to do a standing start under the Double Bridge, we stopped and waited for Anisha’s call. As her ‘Draw…1’ echoed and reverberated around the walls of the bridge we were off. Having practiced our standing starts the week before, we knew they were good and we wound to rate 36 before settling into a steady rate 32 for the rest of the race. With each bridge we came under, Anisha used the echo to surge us forwards and a timely push out of Queens’ Reach got us over halfway. At the town bridge, we suffered a little wobble as a strong headwind caught us by surprise. Regaining our composure with a push off the Weir, we were soon back in the rhythm and on the final push. With our carefully planned motivational ‘push for Queens’ and ‘For Newnham, For Caius’, we emptied the tanks under the final butterfly bridge and collapsed onto the finish.

Less than 15 minutes later we were back paddling up to the start for the second of two races, this time in the IM3 division. The paddle up filled us with confidence as we performed the always exciting feat of a rate 30 burst that felt as relaxed as rate 20. We were buzzing. But also freezing. After being told off by a start marshal for trying to do another standing start we chose to follow the rules (begrudgingly) and do a rolling start once again using the fierce echo of the Double Bridge to send us on our way. About 200m into the race, the sterns heard confused talking from the bows. Confusing us, we tried to soldier on but the talking continued. As we passed the Island and came onto Queens’ Reach the talking stopped and we fell into our rhythm. Expecting the big gust of wind out of the Town Bridge, we braced ourselves for the upcoming headwind….but there was none. Which just meant that we literally sailed home. The second half of the race from that point was well timed, relaxed and powerful. We put in the motivational pushes once again and emptied the tanks to the finish line, with nothing to spare……and then we learnt that Helena (2) had spent the entire race rowing without her feet in because they had popped out of the shoes on the start (and the talking for the first 500m had been her shouting ‘I can’t do it’ while an unsympathetic Jemima and Elaina – knowing nothing of her peril – growled at her to suck it up and keep rowing) Ooops!

We de-rigged and ate delicious Butterfly cakes for the Butterfly bridge before donning our newly knitted W1 stash bobble hats and headed home.

VICTORY- Queens’ W1 win the novice category at Bedford Head in a time of 7.44

In IM3 we came 13th – plenty of room for improvement but for now we savour our victory with brank spanking new pots!

Stroke – Abi Smitton (c) 7 – Claire Armstrong 6 – Becky Lawrence 5 – Mathilde Spiess 4 – Jemima Graham 3 – Elaina Davis 2 – Helena Wickham Bow – Rachel Salter Cox – Anisha Mistry M29th in IM3 in 6:55, 4th in Novice in 6:48