Having been described as “technically awful”, “depressing” and “pathetic”, expectations were high for the Queens’ W2 May Bumps campaign.
The endless four days of pre-term rowing camp had left us broken, but our new boat had been formed and even though Michael had a temporary escape to W1, his return saw the end of our coxlessness and we began our bumps campaign on the 14th of April.
Despite the presence of a small level of commitment, surprisingly our campaign was not getting off to the best of starts as we encountered some difficulties, with Zoe being shat on by a bird and Laura having an asthma attack whilst stroking. On the bright side, our pursuit of motivational quotes was far more successful as we attempted to engage in ethical rowing (7/7), with the immortal realisation that “I am strong because of my boat”, as “my boat is me”. As bumps drew nearer we knew that every outing was crucial. So crucial that we temporarily forgot how to get into a boat, managing to capsize a four in front of the boat house with the entirety of M1 watching. Power of the Boar!
The first day of bumps had arrived, and we plodded down to the boat house knowing that the day was going to just be a “formality”. Hughes Hall had age, experience and three blues rowers on their side, but had at least warned Christine that our struggle would be over quickly. We marshalled in the sunshine, taking our place between Caius W2 (at the head of the river) and Hughes Hall W1. As the minute countdown began we turned our full attention and focus to the voice beneath our crotch and came to front stops. On the canon’s blast we were off. And what can only be described as Siggis’ “biggest shock of his rowing career” we did the impossible. As we pulled further and further away from Hughes Hall, the whistles started blowing, we were gaining on Caius, Michael kept the rate up and we had to power through the most painful piece of rowing any of us had done before. As Michael screamed hold it up, we knew we had done it, we had secured Queens’ first bump of Mays and almost caused Siggi to enter cardiac arrest out of shock.
Despite the elation of pulling away from Hughes, as we pulled into the bank we realised that we would have to do it all again as we gained the unwelcome title of “sandwich boat”. After practically marshalling in the lock, we knew that we had to bump Christ’s in order to minimise the amount of rowing we would have to do for the rest of the week. At the cannon’s blast we powered through our start sequence, hearing the first whistle before the stride. Christ’s put up a strong attempt to hold us off, but as Michael shouted “Kill!” we gave it everything we had left securing an overlap. Despite the fact that we mounted Christ, their cox did not concede and on one final shout of kill we hit their boat and looked to the bank to see Siggi’s fist pump of celebration. As we put on foliage for the second time of the day, we rowed back proudly to the boat house accompanied by an average at best rendition of “We Will Rock You”.
As the second day of bumps arrived, we were nervous: expectation and excitement now surrounded Queens’ W2, the only Queens’ boat to have bumped on day one. Downing W2 were ahead of us. In the words of Siggi, there was no pressure on us, except for the fact that we had to bump. As the canon went we powered through our start sequence. For the first time in our bump’s campaign we strode down to rate 32 and began to eat away at the water between us and Downing. As Michael shouted “Kill!” we gave one last push and bumped just after the railway bridge.
Friday saw the arrival of the critical third day of bumps. We knew that we had to bump today in order to avoid Hughes on Saturday as well as continue our chances of getting blades. At the canon’s blast we raced off, securing our first whistle after the stride. We powered through the heat, past the railway bridge, with the whistles blowing more and more frequently. At the “Kill!” call came we gave one last push and secured our fourth bump of our Mays’ campaign.
As Saturday arrived, the day we’d all been joking about for the past eight weeks materialised: the chance to row for blades. We were quietly confident, but knew that there with the strong Queens’ presence on the bank came expectation and pressure. We rowed down the river for the last time as a crew, and pulled up between John’s and Clare who posed our final challenge. The canon’s blast saw us unleash our fastest start yet and we raced down the river at rate 44, gaining our first whistle on our second wind. Clare were in our sights, and we powered through the pain, getting nearer with every stroke until finally Michael screamed “hold it up!”. Clare had become the fifth boat to fall during our bumps campaign, somehow the Queens’ W2 crew had been able to defy everyone’s expectations – mostly our own – and not only secure the boats place in the W2 division for the first time this century, but also bump five times, gaining blades.
As we were draped in practically a whole tree of foliage, Michael proudly held up the Boar’s Head Flag and we rowed round the corner past the Queens’ Pimms tent to a euphoric round of applause. Our shock and elation quickly turned into panic as Lizzie was put in the coxing seat and managed to successfully crash despite the river being straight, causing mayhem for the W1 crews lining the river. As we arrived back to the boat house for the last time of the year, cupcakes and champagne beckoned, and the celebrations that lasted into the early hours of the morning began.
Although Siggi didn’t find the “with sympathy” card as hilarious as we did, we knew that his tyrannical training regime had paid off. We had managed to blade, bumping five times in the process, whilst having a lot fun along the way.
From a boat of ex-novices, we had reinstated Queens’ W2 firmly within the W2 division, and were able to celebrate, happy in the knowledge that it would be a while before the phrase “arm’s only” emerged to haunt us again.
Lizzie Popli (W2 Captain Mays 2014)
Cox – Michael Hope
Stroke – Lizzie Popli
7 – Jess Moxom
6 – Christine Cuthbert
5 – Elena Georgalla
4 – Laura Douglas
3 – Helena Pomfret
2 – Jess Tray
Bow – Zoe Sciver
Coach – Siggi Martinsson
Subs - Laura Dearman and Elaina Davis