On paper this was always a tough race. In front were a strong Clare crew, who we'd rowed over behind the previous day. Behind were Magdalene, so quite frankly there was never going to be anyone to push off from. In the end, the predictable happened - despite gaining unexpectedly on Clare, they bumped out somewhere through the corners.
With me already planning my 'rowed over' race report, I was delighted to notice that the crew had decided, rather than playing for the rowover, had decided to go for the overbump, and boy did they go for it... Coming into Grassy still 6 lengths out, there was a lot to do, but M3 produced some of their best rowing and demonstrated real hunger to close the gap to 2 and a half lengths by bottom finish.
Even though some hoped for more, up 2 is a superb result for an almost entirely novice crew, and something I hope they'll all take real pride in.
It would be lying to say that blades weren't in the back of our minds as we arrived at the boathouse on the last day. In fact. it would probably be more accurate to say that they were at the front of our minds, thanks to Dr Scales parading around with the flag like a peacock with his tailfeathers. Nonetheless we knew that the task ahead of us was a tough one, and we knew that we had to give it our all, physically and mentally.
Building on Friday's strong performance, again focus was the key on the row down and we didn't let Selwyn M2 intimidate us as the tailgated us down - by Saturday we knew that although we weren't the most powerful crew in the division, we were probably the fittest.
Again, the start wasn't ideal and we went off at quite an angle. Maria and strokeside were quick to correct this, but it did mean that Trinity Hall M2 made ground on us from behind off the start. We soon pushed them off however, and they posed little threat throughout the race. Ahead of us, Selwyn M2 were aware that they'd have to go off hard in order to bump Clare M2 before we bumped them, and they did, meaning that we were unable to make any impression on the distance between us. Thanks to Hughes Hall bumping out on the inside of Grassy, we had to take a wide line on the corner. A heroic hand-brake turn from Maria was the only thing that kept us from making an early exit, escaping with just a clipped blade on the outside of the corner.
Clare M2's luck had been causing chaos in the division all week, and towards the end of Plough Reach it ran out. Selwyn got the bump, and this meant only one thing - the overbump on Peterhouse M2 was our only chance of winning the blades we so craved.
And so the chase was on. At the bottom of the reach Peterhouse must have had 3 or more lengths on us, so we set about doing what we do best - grinding them down. Power ten after power ten drew us closer and closer, and when the first whistle came for 1 length we began to realise that this might actually be possible. Once we passed the P and E we were tantalisingly close but of course we lost our bank party; we were on our own for the final push up to Chesterton.
As a last ditch effort Maria made our kill call - Kiss the Dragon - and Sam brought the rate up brilliantly, with I think every member of the crew surprising themselves as they called on their very last reserves of energy and followed. The excited call of "It's working!" from Maria spurred us on further and just as we were crossing the line the cox conceded - we'd overbumped Peterhouse.
The crew was jubilant. We'd done it! Words couldn't describe the mixture of ecstasy and exhaustion that we were feeling. This must have lasted for a couple of minutes before a little voice from somewhere said "Erm, it wasn't a bump..."
Confusion reigned. The Peterhouse stroke claimed that they had crossed the line before the bump occured. The cox, who just minutes before had willingly conceded, suddenly wasn't sure. There wasn't an umpire in sight. More agonising minutes passed. Finally, Dr Scales appeared, his face dark and brooding, his peacock feathers nowhere to be seen. He confirmed the horrible thought that we were all desperate to deny: "It wasn't a bump". We were heartbroken.
Once we had pulled ourselves together we made the row home. Credit to Peterhouse, they had done what they needed to do and held us off as long as they had to. Still, part of what made the result so hard to bear was the lack of clarity: why hadn't there been a senior umpire on the finish line?
So unfortunately our fantastic week didn't end as we had hoped. Nevertheless, the crew should be very proud of their achievements this Lents - winning blades and going up 4 requires not just dedication and good rowing, but a good deal of luck too, and going up 3 is something to be very proud of, particularly when 8/9 of the crew had never set foot in a boat before October.
Big thank yous of course go to our coaches (Johnny, Adrian and Dr Scales), to our cox (Maria) and to the whole crew. It's been a great term - bring on Mays!
W1 came into the final day of bumps knowing that this was our last chance to bump Queens this year. After a rollercoaster of a week full of drama, re-rows, and soul destroying near bumps, we were going to give it everything we had.
We had the added pressure of a strong Kings crew behind us who we knew from sparring were of similar speed to us, and had bumped LMBC just before the railway bridge the day before. To complicate matters further, in front of was Queens was Clare who were on for spoons, but who promised us that they would do everthing in their power to hold off Queens long enough for us to get our bump.
Off the start it took us longer to get our first whistle on Queens than on previous days, but around grassy we soon made it two whistles. Around ditton Kings were getting perilously close to us, and even had overlap for a few strokes. We did not let this worry us and we made our move and pushed away from Kings. We got our three whistles on Queens at the top of the reach which spurred us on to gain overlap on the reach.
We FINALLY convincingly bumped Queens down the long reach not only with contact between our 2's blade and Queen's stern, but Helly actually grabbed the stern of their boat so the Queens cox was forced to reluctantly concede. We had worked so hard for this bump over three days and four races that it felt as if we had won blades! This bump moved W1 into the top 10 of Division 1 for the first time since 2010.
Credit to the Queens girls for some extremely close racing this week. They are a mentally strong crew who could easily have given up and conceded the bump on multiple occassions. Massive well done (and thanks!) also to Clare for holding off Queens long enough for us to get our bump, and avoiding spoons in the process.
I would like to say a massive thank you and well done to W1 for being such an amazing crew to train and race with. Thanks also to our fantastic subs some of whom stepped in at the very last minute, we definitely could not have done it without you. Finally, thanks to our coach, Georgie, whose ability to pick us up in the face of all the unexpected circumstances we had to deal with was crucial in spurring us on to get that bump.