The Cam saw an unusual amount of action on the river this weekend, as the rowing season kicked off in earnest with experienced and novice crews alike. Saturday was the turn of the experienced crews from all over the country in the Cantabs Winter Head, as universities sent a mixture of Fours and Eights down to the Cam. The temperatures plummeted towards the end of the day, which may have explained the increasing number of crabs and mistakes, but the rowing was of excellent standard.
It was unsurprising to see the lightweights take the fastest time over the day, but King’s College (Cambridge, not London!) kept them honest, a mere two seconds behind them over the 1000m split. Queen’s, Christ’s, Selwyn and Downing all performed strongly as well, as unsurprisingly, the top ten fastest boats were filled by nine Cambridge boats. Nationally, Imperial College London and University of East Anglia put on a strong performance on an unfamiliar course.
However, it was Sunday where the action began in earnest, as a mixture of excellent weather, fancy costumes and novice coxes and rowers created an action packed day of racing in the Emmanuel Sprint Novice Regattas. It also provided a good opportunity for colleges to see where their senior rowers will come from in the next few years and the fortunes of their college boat club.
In the Women’s W1 division, it was a closely fought contest between Peterhouse and Churchill, until the former crashed into the bank but recovered impressively nonetheless. The earlier knockout stages provided drama aplenty – Trinity Hall crashing into Clare on the way to winning their heat, and Trinity’s W1 beating Magdalene by a mere 3cm on the line.
The main problem seemed to be badly balanced boats, something only experience and time can solve. From early on, it was clear Churchill W1 would stroll into the final, having won their heat against Sidney W1 over nine lengths – a gap not helped by a double crab on the line for Sidney. They went on to beat Selwyn W1 comprehensively, by three and a half lengths, with a superior technique. Peterhouse looked on excellent form for the next two weeks, but their cox will be wary of encroaching outside their lane for the Clare Novice Regattas, as happened on Sunday when against Jesus in the quarter final.
The men’s M1 boat for Peterhouse also had problem in staying on their side, but still looked in fine form until they were knocked out by Clare’s boat in the quarter final. Trinity and Magdalene again provided the other day’s closest finish, with Trinity superior again – this time by a mere six inches. The drama peaked when in the initial Churchill and Queen’s race: Queen’s were leading when one of their rowers caught an ejector crab and was thrown into the river. It was credit to their cox they rowed on and won by half-a-length, but were subsequently disqualified, much to the fury of Queen’s. Credit must also go to St. John’s Ambulance for their rapid response and Emmanuel College Boat Club for excellent organisation on a day when the temperatures once again plummeted in the afternoon.
This opened the door for Churchill, who suddenly came alive, impressively beating Emma in their home race to book a place in the semi-finals. They looked ominous, but a costly early crab meant they never recovered and lost to Christ’s. The final looked to be Clare’s in the bag, leading by four lengths into the railway bridge, but they caught a crab with five lengths to go, and with the rower unable to correct it, Christ’s closed to within a quarter-length by the line in a dramatic finish. Churchill, Peterhouse and Emmanuel can take heart from promising signs from their novices for Clare’s Novice Regatta, whilst the senior crews for Fairbairn’s remain more of a mystery, given the merry go round of rowers that occur every year.
Gianpiero Roscelli – Sports Co-Editor