Day 1: bumped by Newnham

Day One of Lent Bumps 2013 dawned and W1 – having spent the evening before being motivational, inspirational and emotional – were ready. Nerves were running high. Having improved massively over the term we really had no idea what to expect of the race. We were wildcards and we had no idea where that put us compared to the other boats. The row down was relaxed – cool calm and collected. Once we pushed off from Chesterton, the first pangs of true terror set in. Caius were playing mind games with us on the start and as well pulled into the bank we could feel the nervous energy. As the cannons sounded, the tensions rose. Pushing out, we watched as Anisha dropped the bung and then we were off. Hitting an impressibe rate 45 off the start we flew away from Newnham. But the nerves meant we couldn’t get our stride strokes in. The whistles from Newnham came as they flew closer and closer. Suddenly, we heard our own whistle. We had eaten into Caius! Going for the boom call around First Post we tried our best to escape from Newnham but the experience and power of the boat was no match for us and we were bumped out coming onto Plough Reach. Realistically, it was the most likely result. Newnham had been very quick all term and we had let first day nerves get the better of us

Day 2: something happened but it didn’t make it onto the final results charts

Rowing to marshal with two subs left us anxious as we waited for our two rowers to return from supervisions. With Newnham ahead and Catz behind we had an expected long race ahead of us. Off the start we settled better but suddenly Catz were coming at us. Closing the gap around First Post we found ourselves having to take a wide line around Grassy to avoid crashing into stationary boats. With some expert handbreak steering from Anisha (while avoiding hitting Catz – who had overlap) – we came onto Plough Reach. Suddenly, we heard Anisha loud and clear: ‘Newnham have crabbed. We’re going for the bump’. Catz had overlap on us and were trying to bump but we called for a ‘Boom’ and shot away from them. Leaving Catz at least half a length behind Anisha took us for the full overtake bump. We pulled in on the outside of Ditton, dazed and confused. But the bank party looked apprehensive. We were told Newnham had a technical row over and that our bump was not counted. Even more confused, we were then told we would have a re-row between us, St Catherines and LMBC the next day. We rowed home confused, angry and exhausted. The boom call to bump Newnham had been incredible and we had pulled out what we thought was the best race we would ever do. We were so wrong……

Day 3: Race 1 - 2 boat re-row with St Catherine’s chasing. Rowed over. Race 2 - rowed over

Angry and hurt at the denial of our bump, we arrived at the boathouse for our rerow fired up to show Catz a bit of Queens’ fire, only to learn LMBC weren’t coming and it would be a two boat re-row. President Lindsey had some final wise words: ‘Bottle the anger. You don’t need it yet. When it gets to 1 minute in, open the bottle a crack. Ice in the mind, fire in the legs’. This became our mantra for the day. We reached the start line (rowing from top station…..a new and exciting experience!) and got ready. Without cannons to start us, a Senior Umpire simply used the megaphone to start our two boat showdown. We were off. We held them on station. Going round Grassy corner (where they had seemingly been about to bump us the previous day) they were 2 lengths away. Their bank party tried to spur them on with a whistle but strokewoman Abi could see it was a lie. Onto the reach we heard a call from the bank ‘Do it for me’. It was Chris. Anisha called for a boom and we moved. Coming past the railings we opened the gap up to 4 lengths and maintained it all the way to the finish line. Queens’ M3 were sat there marshalling and the cheers from the bank, the boat and the marshalling boat were proof enough that we had done it. We had rowed over in front of a crew who were so convinced they should have bumped us. We were ecstatic. But we were also confused. They hadn’t even gotten close to us….we felt cheated. They had held back and they had played mind games and they were going to be going hell for leather in the race later that day.

The fourth race of our bumps campaign proved to be the most exciting and the most impressive race W1 have ever produced. Every member of the crew was emotionally, physically and mentally drained by it but it was worth it. Still feeling the fire after the re-row earlier, we got to the start line with anticipation, adrenaline and anxiety coursing through us. The start cannon went and were were off. Again. Down the Ditch we held Catz on station. Round Grassy corner, Newnham bumped out in front of us and we steered around, hearing the cheers for us from Newnham and Caius. Catz started closing the gap. They were coming but we were determined. Closer and closer they came until there was overlap round onto Ditton. Overlap and overlap the bump should have been inevitable. But Anisha steered over to the meadowside. With half a boat length overlap they could have rammed us into the bank or overtaken but we felt the fire and the rage. We did what Lindsey had said and we opened the bottle. Anisha called for a boom and we pushed off. Bow girl to cox, we were getting away. A canvas….quarter length…half a length…..a length…..back on station. Catz whistles died and we were away. We had escaped the bump and we rowed over to the finish line with Catz in the dust. Utterly ecstatic can only describe our feelings after that race. Our Senior Umpire summed it up….’well you girls don’t make it easy do you?’ And Dr Walker made our day: ‘I’ve never seen a comeback like that.’ We had done something that women’s boats never do. We had gotten away from a bump. Not just by the skin of our teeth but by a decisive 2 boat lengths. We had found a fire and a determination that we never knew we had. It was an utterly incredible race, a race we will never forget and a race (according to Charlie) ‘Queens will be talking about for years to come’.

Day 4: bumped by St Catherine’s

Waking up on Saturday morning, we felt the pain of the previous day. Two exhausting races had taken its toll on us. We were emotionally and physically drained but we still had one final battle to face. Without going into too much detail, we were bumped by Catz half way down the reach. We had gone into this race knowing that ahead of us were a Clare boat desperate not to get spoons and a Catz boat behind us desperate to bump a boat who had escaped them 4 times before. We went off the start and had whistles on Clare straight away. But we couldn’t relax. The tensions and exhaustion of the week showed and we maintained a rate 38, unable to relax our stride out. Catz closed us in as we closed in Clare. Behind Catz, Kings were coming hot on their tail and Maggie were after Kings. When we were bumped there as essentially a 5 boat sandwich and it could have gone any way. We were defeated, exhausted and drained. But so proud of what we had achieved. For me, it was the first time I could really say I cared about sport enough to cry in the face of defeat.

The bumps results may show that we went down two this week, but those results don’t show what an incredible fight we went through to get there. We had rowed 4 races by Friday evening. We had bumped Newnham. We had made a comeback from an ‘inevitable’ bump in a fashion men’s boats only ever seem to do. We had produced performances and a crew that could be proud of themselves. Every single one of the girls in the boat performed above and beyond what others, and even themselves, expected of them.

Finished the week 11th on the river.