Jesus women's captain talks about winning headship

The crew celebrate and prepare for their victory lap of the river
Image credit: Lili Bidwell

The question asked by so many people from outside of the rowing community is: why row? Why the early mornings? Why the horrible ergs? Why so much training? Speaking to the women’s captain of Jesus College Boat Club, Abi Smith, these questions are answered.

Jesus W1 successfully rowed at the top of the first division for the entirety of Lent Bumps 2017, a campaign that was Abi’s dream from the beginning of her career as women’s captain. For her, rowing is about loving the exercise and the camaraderie of the crew. Abi has never not rowed before, so she does not know what life would be like without it; she also says she loves being in nature, especially spotting herons on the cam.

When asked what the most difficult moments as women’s captain have been so far, Abi spoke fo the frustration of coming in from an outing where, for some reason, it just does not seem to be clicking, in spite of all the effort the crew are putting in. As captain it is important that she stays positive even when she is feeling as miserable and hopeless as the rest of the crew, and this pressure to pretend that everything is okay stayed with Abi through the bumps competition as she remained calm on the outside whilst panicking within. She also cited the difficulties with regards of making the team believe that the eight training sessions a week are worth it, and if there is one thing their headship has taught us, it is that hard work pays off.

Abi’s best moments as captain have been mostly down to the crew, and just how close she feels to them all. She loves seeing the crew enjoying themselves and watching her training plan pay off, she loves spending time with the crew. And there is no way she would row if she did not love the sport itself.

The feeling when she crossed the finish line was something that Abi describes as pure elation. Despite being pretty sure that they could win from the moment that Downing began to fall behind after having overlap on Jesus around grassy corner, it was not a full feeling of relief until the race was over. She was so happy for everyone else and delighted that the training had paid off, she had completed the goal she set herself as women’s captain. She was exceptionally proud of the crew and touched at the clan of Jesus supporters shouting from the bank, it was an amazing moment.

When asked if she was going to buy a blade, the answer was an incredulous ‘yes, obviously!’ For Abi this is not an opportunity to be missed. She would like to have it in her room at uni – as a good conversation starter – but she fears her Mum will want to put it above the fireplace at home. Her parents are very supportive of Abi’s rowing, with one of them coming to watch every day of Lent bumps, with her black Labradors Ted and Digby fitting in perfectly with the Jesus colours.

Incredibly Abi says that the crew will be back on the river Monday morning, preparing for WEHoRR and Henley regatta. When questioned about the May bumps campaign Abi explains that she has been focussed on Lents up until now, and is slowly beginning to switch her attention to Mays, although this will be a very different campaign for the crew, but ultimately she wants to take the rest of this term to improve their rowing and then think about May bumps. 

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