Churchill First VIII – Lent 1997


First VIII (Smart Alec): Stuart Lemanski (bow), Mark Hersam, David Sampson, David Bulmer, Alistair Jones, Ben Tidd, Jon Steenbrink, Mark Lantz (stroke), Debra Wallace (cox).


Robinson Head – First VIII finished 7th

The first race of term was the Robinson Head, held over 2800 metres on the Cam on 7 February 1997. Most top men's College crews were entered. Starting eighth in cool and overcast conditions, we settled well into a good rating and maintained our pace and technique throughout the race. Our time of 8'46" earned us an encouraging seventh place. The race was won by 1st & 3rd in a time of 8'28".

(pot)Bedford Head – First VIII finished 1st

The second race of term was the Bedford Head on 16 February 1997, held over 2000 metres on the river Ouse. Churchill, the defending champions in the Invitational VIIIs division, were challenged by Trinity Hall, Queens', Fitzwilliam, Peterhouse and Sidney Sussex. The weather in Bedford was cold, wet, windy and choppy. We started strongly, although the gusty conditions along the course made it difficult to row consistently. Nevertheless, we ploughed on to finish the course in a time of 6'25", pipping Fitzwilliam for a somewhat unexpected first place in the division by 2 seconds. The overall winners were Nottingham RC in 6'10".

Lent Bumps – First VIII bumped Queens', finished 7th

The first day of Lent Bumps saw changeable weather and blustery winds. Starting eighth between LMBC and Jesus, we made a shaky start, but steadied to move in a little on LMBC. Meanwhile, Jesus made a terrific push towards us to draw to within half a length at Grassy Corner, but we stabilised the gap and dropped them coming out of Ditton Corner. From then on, we maintained a strong and solid rhythm to the end of the course. At the finish, we trailed LMBC by two lengths, with Jesus a further three lengths adrift.

The second day saw calmer and warmer weather. A strong start saw us draw to within a length of LMBC at First Post Corner, and we made further inroads to be three-quarters of a length behind at the end of the Gut. Meanwhile, LMBC was closing fast on Queens', and Queens' succumbed at Ditton Corner. Thus we were once again left to hold off Jesus behind. The gap swung back and forth between two and half lengths and two as both crews powered up the Reach, but we controlled the margin to remain comfortably clear to the finish.

Cloudy skies were the order of the day for the third day, and we had our best possibility to advance after two row overs. Another strong start saw us draw again to within a length at First Post Corner, and this time we further closed the gap to be just half a length away at the end of the Gut. However, a mistake rounding Grassy Corner slowed progress dramatically. We resumed, still clear of Jesus, and set about closing in again on Queens'. More trouble was in store at Ditton as we missed another stroke, but a push coming onto the Reach reduced the margin. As we hit their rough water, we raised the tempo yet further, and a clash of blades at the Railings signaled the end of the contest.

Large crowds turned out despite cold and windy conditions for the final day of Lent Bumps. A steady start saw us hold Christ's at a length and a half through the early stages, while Jesus bumped Queens' in the Gut to remove any threat from behind. Strong winds in the Reach made progress difficult, but we continued to push Christ's through to the finish.

After one bump and three row overs, Churchill had risen from eighth to seventh, the highest the College has ever been in the men's First Division.

Head of the River Race – First VIII finished 110th

The final race of term was the Head of the River Race on the Thames in London. The race was conducted over the 4.25 mile "Boat Race" course, and attracted 420 crews from around Europe. Despite a large number of changes from the Lent Bumps crew, we trained well in preparation for the race.

We started strongly in the warm and calm conditions, and made a terrific push passing under Barnes Bridge. We then set about a race long battle with the relentless Senior 2 crew from Royal Shrewsbury School Boat Club. We maintained an excellent rhythm throughout the middle stages, and a final series of pushes past Hammersmith Bridge sent us across the finish line for a time of 19'05"81, good enough for 110th place overall. We claimed 11th place out of the 97 Senior 3 crews entered. We also finished second among Cambridge College crews, beating Fitzwilliam, Caius, Queens', Jesus, Trinity Hall and Catz, and coming in just 16 seconds behind Downing. The overall winner was the Leander I crew including Olympic champions Steven Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent – they completed the course in 17'28"20.

Race results


Churchill Men's First VIII enjoyed an excellent Lent Term. The highlight was a strong performance in the Lent Bumps, where we moved from 8th to 7th, our highest ever placing. Other high points included a victory at the Bedford Head, and a solid performance to beat a host of fancied Cambridge crews in the Head of the River Race in London. Thanks to our coaches, especially Chris Lloyd and Mike Barham.

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