Off the back of the Pegasus Cup win last year, Churchill obviously had a fierce reputation to live up to coming in to May Bumps. However, we have shown ourselves of being more than deserving of this reputation and Churchill is rapidly cementing its status as one of the strongest clubs on the river.
The term began with our annual training camp at Molesey Boat Club in London. Whilst previous years have been beset by spring hail and lightning storms, this year was a wonderful week of blazing sunshine. The aim of the week was to carry on the momentum from Lents, and to begin the process of gelling our crews for May Term. This was under the guidance of our capable Chris coaching pair, Burfiend and Williamson. The week was a huge success, and meant May Term was off to a strong start.
Seats in the top Men’s Boats were always going to be particularly competitive this year, given such a strong squad coming out of Lent term. As well as the return of our triallists, the allure of evening rowing in the sun is hugely useful in tempting ex-M1 rowers out of retirement. In all, we had 5 Men’s crews out training this term, which is a huge result for the club, and testament to the success of our novice drive at the beginning of the year. I am certain each member of our M2 could have found themselves in M1 on any other year, and so I am confident in the success of the Men’s Squad for years to come.
Whilst the Men were fortunate in their numbers this year, the women had to train up several new faces from novice to Mays rowers. Under the adept leadership of our Ladies’ Captain Barbora however, the rate of improvement of the girls has been absolutely phenomenal. This was clearly shown with their strong showing at Nottingham Regatta (the first off-Cam racing for several of the girls), and each one of our ladies has shown themselves to be more than deserving of their seat in the crew. They go into Bumps in a strong position, and I am expecting them to do very well this week.
2014 has seen by far the strongest representation in recent memory for Churchillians representing Cambridge University in rowing. Out of six university triallists we had three blues- James Green, Gabriella Johannson and Will Brown- all of whom learnt to row at Churchill College Boat Club. We are all hugely proud of what they have achieved this year, and there was plenty of pink support from the Henley riverside and banks of the Thames.
Finally, this week marks the end of my year as Overall Captain of Churchill College Boat Club. It has been an absolute privilege to be a part of this wonderful club, and during my time here I have made friendships that I know will last long after I leave Cambridge. I am confident that the upward trajectory of Churchill Boat Club will continue in the safe hands of my successor, Jeremy Parker.
The term started with an amazing training camp at Molesey. We pretty much managed to secure a full crew for most of the week and this was really where the basis for our training was laid down. After a few discussions on style changes we managed to settle on a new (less novicy) style to row with. The crew remains largely the same as last mays with Washkewicz and Symes joining and a new stern pair being created with Jones and Green. Burfiend joining us to coach throughout the whole term and at training camp allowed us to see continuity throughout and be reminded of our improvement.
After our first couple of weeks with Stef we knew we were fast, ambitions were high and we settled on blades for our target for bumps. We knew it would be difficult with the bottom of the first division and top of the second division being far faster than most of the first division. With Fergusson overseeing us every week we could see we were improving from a high base level with the comments he would make. We can be proud that we sat on the start line for bumps being faster than at least the 10 crews ahead of us, which is an amazing achievement for a first division crew. With passions flaring throughout the term and Gemma’s mirrored sunglasses adding to an angry stern pair who could see everything, one outing even had to have a short break whilst we calmed down on the bank and tried to avoid punching each other. It was at that moment I realised that we all really wanted this, we all wanted to be the best.
Silvia joined us towards the end of term for the last few weeks. This made a massive change, not only did we start to row with a hell of a lot more confidence we now had the mindset and the skills to execute the perfect race, time and time again. Visualisation was introduced and we can put it down to this and the practice of many scenarios that allowed us to stay calm whilst we clinched the first bump on Homerton.
We have to remember blades is a mindset, it’s not an actual thing. Whilst we know we deserve blades the luck of the day was not with us. If only the Peterhouse cox had learnt to cox on day 1… I’m proud of everyone and everyday of bumps I line up and I’m happy and looking forward to another race in which we each put our trust in every member of the crew and it lifts us to higher levels of achievement. It’s not all about the size of the dog in the fight.
The outlooks at the beginning of Easter term for Churchill women were all but pink and fluffy. The squad and W2 especially suffered very badly from river closures during winter and the little time spent on the water had a huge impact on interest and enthusiasm to stay involved in the final term. At the same time injuries and submission deadlines amongst the seniors prevented many experienced oarswomen from returning.
The decision-making was tricky. Week 0 produced a diverse mix of seniors, novices and a Blondie returner. Should I have adjusted the training schedule to the more inexperienced profile of the crew, or carry on with the challenging “one rest day per week” plan and risk people dropping out? Now relieved, I can proudly say that I chose the second option.
Several changes and tools were induced to create a nurturing and organized environment for our training. Stella Isaac and Eric Washkewicz joined the coaching team, whilst heavily invested in training with other crews themselves. I started an online coaching logbook to secure continuity and structure of every single outing. One of the most successful weapons turned out to be visualization, a mental coaching tool inherited from last year´s W1. Its altered and expanded version helped the crew immensely to improve focus and create the perfect performance mindset at all times. This was very much needed to endure the workload, painful “death ergs” and weights – completely new experiences for many crew members.
And the results soon started to show. We successfully raced in the IM3 division at Nottingham City Regatta, missing out on the final just by a few seconds. However, the important message is that under comparable conditions this year´s W1 finished the course in 7:52 min. In comparison to last year´s 08:08 min., this result confirmed the rising quality of Churchill women´s rowing and was a source of huge satisfaction for all. Another positive experience was soon to follow – 99s Spring Regatta. Despite losing our first race to Caius W1, we went on to win the Plate competition, beating Trinity Hall, but also Selwyn W1. Their aggressive steering did not pay off and so we enjoyed pulling away from a crew we knew would chase us on Day 1.
Again just before the summit, it all got hard before it would become easier. Last weeks of training were full of difficulties: one crew member running her first marathon, two cases of norovirus infection, knee injuries and immense pressure in form of exams and subbed outings. However, we trained on an empty river and it made us stronger.
On the first day we assured Selwyn once again that they “shall not pass”. This year´s W1 might not be the most technical and strongest of all, but we have proven that if you put your heart, soul and iron willpower into the team, you can work miracles!
Hereby, I would like to thank the large group of people we were working with in the background, who sacrificed their free time to coach, row, listen, advise, shout and praise. Without your support, I could have been writing a different menu. This is namely Eric, Stella, Martin, David and Chris, but also Mila, Natalie, Hugo, Jess and Jeremy.
At the same time, we should also thank ourselves! Looking at the first video footages of our rowing 6 weeks ago, it is bloody obvious what a long way we have all come as a team. Ladies, hold your heads high!
Churchill M2 has gone from strength to strength this term. Faced with a number of challenges in the first few weeks, we’ve come together as a tight unit with a realistic claim to be the fastest boat in our half of the division.
Enforced crew changes, with Matt deciding he was too good for us and Vahe defying all laws of the traditional Cambridge workload to take a holiday in Orlando, meant that it wasn’t until three weeks before bumps we had the crew set.
A change in cox a few weeks into term caused us to look outside college, to be joined by the fantastic Naomi from Caius, who undoubtedly helped us improve massively throughout the term. Unfortunately, the intransigence attitude of CUCBC meant Naomi couldn’t cox us for bumps, and so we brought in Gustav from M4 who slotted in brilliantly for bumps week.
In total, I’ve had 10 crew members and 4 coxes to deal with, but the chopping and changing seems to have had little effect. Building on a decent showing at our first race of term, Head 2 Head, we caught up hugely with our closest rivals at Champs Head. That performance gave us confidence that if we worked hard, we could prove ourselves faster than the boats around us in bumps.
A particular highlight of the term was our charity erg for The Brain Tumour Charity. Almost doubling the length of our usual land sessions, we each rowed 15km, and managed to raise £800 sponsorship in less than two weeks. It was a superb effort from the whole crew, and I was delighted to see the heart everyone put into it. A massive thank you to everyone who donated (and please visit https://www.justgiving.com/churchillm2 where you can still donate)!
In our final race, we reached the semi-finals of Nines Regatta, swatting aside Clare II before pushing Catz II, at the top of our division, all the way. We used the experience to improve our high rate work over the following two weeks. Exams clasped their ineluctable claws on our training schedule towards the end of term, but by our last training session, we were looking like a gelled, confident crew for bumps.
We are incredibly grateful to everyone who has subbed in this term and to all our coaches, including James Green, Dan Jones, Eric, Giorgio, Fergusson, and Rob Oeffner. They have committed large amounts of time to building us into a team, and we appreciate all their help.
For me, it’s been a pleasure to captain this crew. The devotion to training, the contribution by every member to improving the whole crew, and the slightly too frequent creepy comments about my love life have meant I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the term. I look forward to seeing how far these boys can go as they continue their rowing careers.
The term started off well for M3, with our first few outings looking and feeling good. However, after these outings, due to an unfortunate sub situation, our crew was left only 7 members strong. Still, this didn’t deter us and we continued to train hard on the ergs and on the water, using subs from any boat we could find.
As a crew we entered two races: City Head to Head and Champs Eight Head. In both we completely smashed all the boats in our Mays division and most boats in a few Mays divisions above us. Past this though, it has to be mentioned that between the two races there was major improvement within our crew, with special mention to Struan who performance in the second race was almost unrecognisable to his performance in the first (because it was so much better).
The first day of May Bumps coincided with our first outing as a full crew. The practice start outside the plough being our first start together. The start itself felt shaky but the pace afterwards felt good. The race itself went very well with us bumping Homerton within 500 meters. The crew really came together during the race and bumps as a whole.
With three absolute novices and only two people who had rowed in lent, no one could have predicted how M4 would perform this term. I am happy to say that with a victory in the plate final of the spring regatta and a qualification for bumps, the crew have far exceeded all of my expectations. At the start of term, the balance and timing of the boys left a lot to be desired but, within a few outings, the crew pulled together and we were rowing as one unit. By the end of the term everyone had improved massively, both in technique and fitness, and I’m sure a few of the crew will go on to be successful rowing in higher boats next year.
When writing these crew reports as a captain they usually discuss the antics of a term, however in the case of M5 they discuss the activities of under a week. The initial crew having never rowed before presented a unique challenge to the coxes and coach, as the training up to the Getting on Race would constitute a complete crash course of a term’s worth of novice training in under a week. The build up to the Getting on Race was challenging with the appearance of the heaviest cox on the Cam in their third outing posing even greater headwinds to the success of the boat. The outing before the Getting on Race, coached by Dan Jones (Men’s Captain), gave us some of the best rowing that we have ever done as a crew. Given it was the first time we had rowed the full bumps course it gave the crew the necessary confidence boost needed to go into the start of their Bumps campaign.
The fateful day of the Getting on Race came. Tensions and nerves were high as we entered the May Room for what would be, regrettably, the final time for the crew. Last minute crew changes included the dramatic return of Laura Bateman to the frontline, albeit for a Men’s crew and rowing for the first time on bow side. As we rowed down to the start confidence was high amongst the crew as we span at our station and pulled into the bank. Of course, rowing and coxing in Sir Winston Churchill on the 70th Anniversary of D-Day was a privilege. A rousing speech from Trevor Cave gave the troops the necessary boost to prepare them for the Battle on the Cam. Sandwiched between to Maggie boats we knew that the situation would be challenging from the of. A strong start down First Post Reach was scuppered by a crab as we came round First Post Corner from which we didn’t really recover. As we came down Long Reach Maggie V, a fellow beer boat, closed in on us. With the cries of Laura Bateman and James GB we made our pushes down the Long Reach, however ultimately the cries were not enough to save us as energy waned down Long Reach and we were consigned to our fate. The slowest of the Men’s Boats and with a time not being able to get on to the Women’s division may leave us consigned as a failure. However, I think the legacy it does leaves is a thoroughly positive one. One of individuals who never thought of rowing before giving it a go and getting up to rowing the full Bumps course given a boat and a novice cox, in under a week, is an outstanding legacy and one that everyone here should be proud of.