Churchill First VIII – Lent 1998


First VIII (Smart Alec): Jake Begun (bow), Nick Guillard, Richard Gregory, Rob Thatcher, Andrew Galbraith, David Sampson, David Bulmer, Alistair Jones (stroke), Olli Martin (cox).


Head of the Nene – First VIII finished 12th

The first race of term was the Head of the Nene in Peterborough, held on 7 February over a 4.9 km course. Racing into an enormously strong headwind, we completed the course in 16'56" for 12th place overall and 3rd in the men's S3 division. The time was 11" behind the men's S3 winners, Star Club, and 8" behind the top Cambridge College men's crew, 1st & 3rd.

Pembroke Regatta – First VIII beat Girton, lost to LMBC

The second race of term was the Pembroke Regatta, a side-by-side event over 1000 metres on the Cam on 14 February. Our crew was disrupted by an unavoidable absense, and then our sub had to pull out due to injury the day before the race, so we spent the eve of the race frantically searching for an eighth rower.

Having finally sorted out a crew, we faced Girton in a mid-morning first round encounter. We made a solid start and had the race in our keeping well before half distance, running out winners by three lengths.

After yet another crew change (a sub for our sub!), we lined up against LMBC in the afternoon for round 2. We started well and the lead changed several times through the opening 500 metres, with both crews well matched. However, coming under the railway bridge, LMBC made a push to which we could not respond, and we went down by half a length.

Cam Winter League – Second Leg – First VIII finished 2nd

Our final race before Bumps was the second leg of the Cam Winter League, over 2800 metres on 22 February. We settled into an excellent rhythm off the start, and completed the full course in 8'57", second overall and just 1" behind Rob Roy I. We even managed to squeeze in some impromptu bumping practice when the slower Rob Roy II crew veered across our path just after the railway bridge, forcing our bow man to stop rowing for three strokes! So close to glory...

Lent Bumps – First VIII bumped Christ's and Trinity Hall, finished 5th

We started Lent Bumps in Churchill's all-time high of 7th, behind Christ's and ahead of Jesus. On the first day, we began strongly to move to within a length of Christ's before First Post corner, and half a length in the Gut. The gap as we entered Grassy Corner was swinging between three and six feet, but we struggled to maintain our rhythm in Christ's wash. We rowed up Plough Reach right on their tail, but Jesus behind were making major inroads. Halfway down Plough Reach, Jesus began an incredible push that took them ever closer to our stern, and into Ditton they had overlap and the inside line. Just as they looked set to close us down, our efforts to escape were rewarded with a colossal thump as we crunched our bows against the side of the Christ's boat. It was just the most amazing moment...

Starting behind Caius on the second day, we made a good start and closed in on them slightly. However, Caius were moving quickly on Trinity Hall, and they bumped them going around Ditton Corner. Behind us, Jesus had hit Christ's early, so, with crews behind and ahead bumping out, we just had to motor through to the finish. Up the reach, we closed on LMBC, but they were much too far ahead. By the time we reached the Pike & Eel, we took it down to half pressure and sailed across the line.

We went into the third day with some trepidation, knowing Jesus behind would be doing everything they could to catch us. Nevertheless, by start time, we were more relaxed, and our rowing had been improving throughout Bumps. We blasted off the start and quickly earned our first whistle on Trinity Hall. Through First Post corner, we continued to close. It was very choppy, but unlike the first day, we retained our focus and composure and took it into Hall strongly at the end of the Gut, right in front of a large gathering of Churchill fans! Jesus behind did not threaten.

On the fourth day, we enjoyed a tough battle with Caius. We hadn't made the best of starts, but we worked hard to close the margin throughout the race, and the gap at the finish was just half a length... but we couldn't quite close them down. Caius had closed to within half a length of Downing at Grassy Corner, but they were unable to finish the job, and Downing stayed half a length clear to the end.

After two bumps and two row overs, we had risen to the dizzy heights of fifth in the First Division, an all-time high for a Churchill men's crew.

Head of the River Race – First VIII finished 114th

The final race of term was the Head of the River Race on the 4.25 mile "Boat Race" course on the Tideway. As ever, this prestigious race attracted a high quality entry of 420 crews from around Europe. Seven rowers from our Lent Bumps crew were joined by Ewan Main from Second Boat, with Debra Wallace returning to the coxing seat.

We started well and closed slowly but steadily on crews ahead in the first half of the race. In the latter stages of the race, our rhythm was not as consistent, but nevertheless we completed the course in 19'53"22, 114th overall and 5th among Cambridge College crews. The battle between College crews was intense, and the top 5 College crews -- 1st & 3rd, Caius, Downing, LMBC and Churchill -- were covered by just 12.5 seconds. The race was won overall by Leander I in 17'44"10. Times were significantly slower than in 1997 due to a particularly slack tide and a headwind.

Race results


Churchill Men's First VIII enjoyed a very successful and rewarding Lent Term. The highlight was appropriately achieved in the main event of the term, the Lent Bumps -- we moved a new Churchill record high of 5th, and achieved thrilling bumps on Christ's and Trinity Hall in the process. Throughout the term, we proved that we were competitive with the very best Cambridge College crews. Thanks to our coaches, especially Chris Lloyd and Mary Young.

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