‘Chaos’ on the River Cam leads to boat club apology

Stevie Hertz 21 November 2015

Tensions increased between houseboat owners and Cambridge University rowers last week after a pre-dawn ruckus on the river woke waterway residents.

The noise came from coxes shouting instructions into megaphones, as well as traffic congestion on the river.

The disturbance prompted a letter from Mr. Geoff and Andie Page, houseboat owners on the Midsummer Commons, who wrote in to the Cambridge University Combined Boat Clubs (CUBC) complaining about the rowers causing “chaos”.

After a repeat of such incidents, a spokesman for CUCBC apologised to angry residents, saying: “Fines have been issued to reported clubs in the first instance, but repeat offences will result in a larger fine, followed by more serious measures.”

One cox who did not wish to be named commented that the confusion was “mainly because senior crews had to push off later as sunrise is occurring later, and therefore [they were] all more likely to coincide with novice outings, which have to take place later in the morning anyway.”

“It's generally very tricky to navigate with multiple crews in one place, and novice coxes in particular get panicky and shout commands, forgetting that the cox box amplifies their voice quite dramatically.”

A novice rower also remarked that “for two weeks, a huge tree had fallen across the river and left only a little gap for boats to navigate through, and that's tough for anyone.”

In response to a question Mr. Page posed in his letter, asking why "colleges have a boat full of novices and not include more experienced senior rowers?” the cox said that “putting seniors in a boat with novices is not an option as it would inhibit the seniors from getting proper training; plus the novices would struggle to keep up with the seniors.”

Rather than mixing seniors and novices, which would “result in a weaker boat club”, the cox suggested “limiting the number of crews from each boat club that can go out each morning.”

“Some boat clubs sometimes have a ridiculous number of crews out at once, which is unfair on other boat clubs who can't get proper training in as their boats are stationary for parts of the outing due to congestion.”