SCCBC in the 2000s

Through the late 90s, I am informed that other than the men’s Lents VIII moving up a few places from the second division, the club was going through a bit of a stagnant patch and numbers of female rowers in particular were dwindling. When my year matriculated in 2000, we were most welcome to the sports captains and the Senior Tutor at the time, Chris Thorne, since it then became most unusual to find a fresher who did not represent Catz in at least one sport. ‘For the Wheel’ was very much the College buzz-phrase and for every place we slid down the Tompkins Table, so we earned another blade or won yet another Cuppers Final.

In the first few years, we fielded five men’s and three women’s crews in Mays and the top crews from each in Lents and Mays moved up or won their blades. We even won a Fairbairn’s pennant in the IVs for whoever knows how long. Sadly this broad success was to come to an end in 2003 as the 2000 kids moved on and the College decided that academic performance was more desirable. Ironically, despite a relative slump in College sport overall (we still won some things!) and especially in the women’s rowing, this heralded the onset of the best individual performance of any Catz crew and the love affair between our Mays M1 and Caius. Various opportunities were seen and swiftly seized upon and in October 2002, Steffen Buschbacher, Hugo Mallinson and Jim Omartian arrived from Harvard to embark upon graduate courses at Catz. Steffen and Chris Le Neve Foster, an undergraduate, raced and won in Goldie while Hugo and Jim rowed and narrowly lost in the Blue Boat. This was also the year in which Chris and another undergraduate, Breck Lord, won the Britannia IVs at Henley for Goldie. Adding a few Lightweight Blues to the equation resulted in a rather fast boat and M1 rose to 5th in Mays 2003, hauling M2 up with it.

The next year saw Steffen and Chris earn their Blues and then probably the most stacked ever Catz crew attempted to win the coveted “blades Headship”. However, it remained elusive as Caius romped away into the distance on the last day leaving us in 2nd. 2005 saw us slide to 5th while our stars were otherwise engaged, but resurgence in 2006 saw M1 retake 2nd. By this time, M2 were flying high amongst 1st VIIIs and were doing admirably well year on year to maintain their position. The women meanwhile were suffering somewhat and it was only in 2006 that they reversed the downward trend and crept back up into the first division. W1 just missed out on their blades in 2007 but the upward trend will hopefully continue, while M1 suffered the fate of a club with no solid squad and spooned to 6th. So much for Mays…Lent boats were and still are generally poor due to a downturn in the novice programme in the mid 00s, but in 2008 W1 won their blades and the novice numbers are growing slowly across the board to make this into a strong club once again. Although we had a blast flirting with Headship attempts, one can only hope that the club remains appreciative of the fact that consistent results throughout the year and in time to come will always be based on a watertight novice system, breeding new rowers until they too can represent M1 and maybe one day row back down the course on the Saturday of Mays with the cox proudly holding the flag.

Dave White (2000)