Cambridge '99 – Summer 2002


(pot)(pot)Head of the Cam – S3 8+ finished 9th; S4 4+ finished 5th

Having been away for Leicester Regatta, my first race of the summer racing season was the Head of the Cam, held on 4 May over 2800 metres. I competed in both the S3 8+ and the S4 4+ events.

Conditions were very pleasant and the eight had a good row, covering the course in 9'25", 9th overall and comfortably fastest in S3. The time was satisfying because it was substantially quicker than the times recorded over the same course in the Cam Winter League earlier in the year. The S1 crew from Cambridge '99 -- with Henry, Scrumpy and Stan all on board -- went over at 36 all the way, recording the fastest time of the day with 8'48".

An hour and a half later, we lined up in the four. We had an eventful row, clashing blades with a crew of schoolgirls as we passed them around the outside of Ditton Corner, but we were reasonably pleased with a time of 10'19". Again, we won our division comfortably, also outpacing our S3 crew and finishing just 10" adrift of one of our S1 crews. The other Nines S1 4+ was fastest four of the day with 9'46".

All in all, it was a successful day for the Nines, with the improving women's squad also collecting pennants in WN 4+. The mood was understandably upbeat as we enjoyed a few beers at the boat house before heading out for a curry.

Crews: S3 8+: Simon Hargraves (bow), Martin Hillier, Pete Kelly, David Rothe, Phil Sheppard, Richard Thompson, David Sampson, Pete Matthews (stroke), Anne Harrison (cox); S4 4+: Phil Sheppard (bow), David Rothe, David Sampson, Richard Thompson (stroke), Anne Harrison (cox).

(poor)(poor)Bedford Regatta – S4 4+ lost to Rob Roy; S3 8+ lost to St Edward's School

The next race of the season was the Bedford Amateur Regatta, held on 11 May over 1200 metres. As last year, I competed in both the S3 8+ and the S4 4+ events. Unfortunately, several key members of our squad were unavailable to row that weekend.

Our first race of the day was the (scratch) four against Rob Roy. We weren't rowing together well during the warm-up, and we went down a length immediately off the start. In the middle section of the race, Rob Roy began to fade, and we closed up to within a canvas. However, just as we looked set to get on terms, we would take a bad stroke and fall behind. At the finish, they remained a canvas ahead.

Later in the afternoon, we raced the eight against St Edward's School. Although we had a reasonable row, they were far superior to us, running out winners easily. All in all, an unsuccessful day.

Crews: S3 8+: Steve Sanders (bow), David Tribe, Phil Sheppard, Nick Wright, David Sampson, Pete Kelly, Simon Hargraves, Martin Hillier (stroke), Anne Harrison (cox); S4 4+: Phil Sheppard (bow), Nick Wright, David Sampson, Pete Kelly (stroke), Anne Harrison (cox).

City of Cambridge Sprint Regatta – S4 4+ beat St Neots, lost to Black Prince

We faced St Neots in the first round of the City of Cambridge Sprint Regatta, held on 12 May on a 500 metre course in front of the boathouses. Level off the start, we rowed through them to win by over a length. The final against Black Prince was a different matter, however. Black Prince made a great start, and although we were in touch throughout the race, we were never able to close the gap inside half a length. The less said, the better.

Crew: Phil Sheppard (bow), Pete Kelly, David Sampson, David Rothe (stroke), Anne Harrison (cox).

(beer)X-Press Head – S3 8+ finished 2nd

We raced over 2800 metres in the X-Press Head in Cambridge on 17 June. In blazing sunshine and still conditions, we covered the course in 10'06". This time was slower than our efforts from earlier in the season, but not surprising given our lack of practice recently. The fastest crew of the day was Wolfson (N 8+) with a time of 9'49", although we still came in second and won a prize for the fastest men's senior eight. After the race, most of the competing crews descended on the Cambridge Blue for an enjoyable hog roast and to claim our free pints (included in the race entry fee!).

Crew: Simon Hargraves (bow), Martin Hillier, Steve Sanders, Pete Kelly, Phil Sheppard, Richard Thompson, David Sampson, Pete Matthews (stroke), Ed Lewis (cox).

CRA Time Race – S3 8+ finished 4th

We competed in the CRA Time Race, a pub-to-pub contest from the Pike and Eel to the Fort St George (around 1800 metres), on 11 July. We had strengthened our squad in recent weeks with the addition of Claire Kwan (from Corpus, cox), Ross Williamson (from Trinity Hall) and Mark Peachey (from Durham). We completed the course in 7'16", fourth overall behind Rob Roy (E, 6'48"), Cambridge '99 (S1, 6'49") and City (E, 7'07"). We rounded off the evening with a curry to celebrate David Rothe's birthday.

Crew: Steve Sanders (bow), Martin Hillier, Mark Peachey, Pete Kelly, David Sampson, Richard Thompson, Phil Sheppard, David Rothe (stroke), Claire Kwan (cox).

Cambridge Town Bumps – Third VIII bumped X-Press I, were bumped by City of Cambridge II, finished 11th

We started Cambridge Town Bumps in 11th place, chasing X-Press I and chased by Cantabs II. About half the crew was from the S3 squad, although as always happens in the Town Bumps, we had some late crew changes including a new stroke man on the first day of racing!

On the first day, we didn't get a diagonal push off the bank so we started at something of a disadvantage, significantly less than a length and a half up on Cantabs. We made a well controlled start and settled into a decent rhythm quickly, although Cantabs were moving up on us steadily. Towards the end of First Post Reach, we were starting to gain on X-Press, but Cantabs now were just a canvas off our stern. We remained quite calm and opted for a push just before First Post Corner. The rate lifted and the boat speed increased, and within ten strokes, we had doubled the gap to Cantabs and closed further on X-Press. Racing down the Gut, I was focusing on Cantabs, unaware of our proximity to X-Press. Therefore, I was quite surprised when Claire announced that we had bumped at the entry to Grassy!

On the second day, we again made a steady start and Hornets ahead began to pull away. By the end of First Post Reach, we were almost back on station, and we continued to close through the corners. X-Press behind were bumped by the impressive City II crew at First Post Corner. Coming onto the Reach, we were less than half a length down. We closed to under a canvas by the Railings, but Hornets are tough competitors and they pushed again, halting our progress. Coming up to the finish at the Railway Bridge, we made a final effort, but it was too little, too late, and Hornets remained a canvas clear.

On the third day, we lightened off the gearing one notch and went for maximum attack off the start. Our speed early in the race was improved, and we lost nothing to Hornets on the run down the first straight. City II behind made only a minor impression at this stage, and we continued to row strongly around Grassy Corner. City began to close down Plough Reach, and the crowds were cheering loudly as we passed the Plough half a length up on City and three quarters of a length behind Hornets. Into the Reach, we made a series of desparate pushes as City closed to within a canvas. The committment in the crew was evident, but our efficiency was declining when we needed it most, and we had to concede at the Railings, with Hornets still half a length clear and about 500 metres short of the finish line. I have rarely been so exhausted at the end of a race.

On the final day, we had a remarkable race with Cantabs II. We started enthusiastically if not efficiently, leading Cantabs by a length at Grassy Corner. Cantabs moved in up Plough Reach, and coming around Ditton Corner, they were a canvas behind and a couple of feet to the towpath side. Both crews mounted a series of pushes, with Cantabs growing ever closer and gaining overlap by the Railings. Twenty strokes later, they had six feet of overlap, although contact had not been made and we were fighting hard. We put in a last ditch effort as they began to move across for the bump, and we were clear by the skin of our teeth as their bows passed across our stern. At this point, they stuttered badly, taking airshots on bowside and losing a length almost immediately. They took some time to recover their composure, by which time we were safely clear and approaching the finish line. We were justifiably ecstatic after the narrowest possible escape. We finished the Bumps up one, down one in 11th position overall.

Crew: Mark Peachey (bow), David Rothe, Seth Pemberton, Nick Wright, Simon Hargraves, Pete Kelly, David Sampson, Neil Talbott (stroke), Claire Kwan (cox).

(poor)(poor)St Neots Regatta – S4 4+ lost to Stratford-upon-Avon; S3 8+ lost to Cantabrigians

Two days after the Bumps (28 July), we cobbled together an eight and a four for the 500 metre St Neots Regatta. The course and facilities were splendid and the weather was sunny and hot, the warmest day so far in 2002! There were plenty of fit young ladies (and fit young men, if that's your style) to watch both on and off the water, which is just as well because our races weren't any fun. It didn't help that I had been ill with a fever the night before.

Our first race of the day, at the ungodly hour of 9:00, was the four against Stratford. Though we were in contention throughout, we didn't row well together and we deserved to lose by a canvas.

Early in the afternoon, we raced the eight against Cantabs. Again we failed to gel, losing by a length.

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail...

Crews: S3 8+: Mark Peachey (bow), Seth Pemberton, Steve Sanders, Ross Williamson, Phil Sheppard, Nick Wright, David Sampson, Martin Hillier (stroke), Claire Kwan (cox); S4 4+: Seth Pemberton (bow), Ross Williamson, David Sampson, Martin Hillier (stroke), Claire Kwan (cox).

Abingdon Regatta – S4 4+ beat Marlow, lost to Eton Excelsior; S3 2- lost to Wallingford

On 18 August, we competed at the Abingdon Sprint Regatta over 600 metres.

After a scratchy season, the S4 4+ had put in some good preparation for this regatta. Against Marlow in the first round, we made a strong start and established a lead early in the race. By half way, we had clear water, and we ran out winners by three lengths. In the semi-final against Eton Excelsior, we made an even faster start, but unfortunately our opponents were faster still! We were in contention for most of the race and we were very pleased with our row, but we crossed the line just over a length down.

Richard and I also entered the 2-. We were up against Wallingford in our first ever pairs race. We made a reasonable start but we never really settled into a rhythm. We lost by a couple of lengths, but you have to start somewhere.

Crews: S4 4+: Pete Kelly (bow), Ross Williamson, Richard Thompson, David Sampson (stroke), Claire Kwan (cox); S3 2-: Richard Thompson (bow, steering), David Sampson (stroke).

(pot) (pot)Gloucester Regatta – S4 4+ beat Llandaff, Staines B and Staines A; S3 2- beat Stratford-upon-Avon

To round off the season, we loaded the trailer and travelled to the west of England for the GBR (Gloucester, Bristol, Ross) events over the August Bank Holiday weekend. On the Saturday we raced at Gloucester over a straightish 800 metre course. David Rothe and Mark Peachey replaced Pete Kelly and Ross Williamson from the Abingdon 4+.

Our first race in the four was against Llandaff, who kept us waiting at the start for half an hour. They need not have bothered turning up, as they clouted a tree early on and trailed in many lengths behind. We had been happy with our start, and so we were confident as we lined up against Staines B for the semi-final. Again we began quickly, opening a lead of a length and a half. However, we rowed poorly through the middle of the race, and Staines came back at us, eventually losing by just half a length. We knew we would have to do better in the final against Staines A, and although we were down a third of a length off the start, we were moving the boat efficiently. We pushed with about 200 metres to go, drawing level, and then pushed again to break clear approaching the finish line. The final margin was just one third of a length. We were delighted to win a very tight race.

The pairs event was a straight final against Stratford, shortly before the fours final. We started smoothly and even reasonably straight, although our opponents took an early lead of a length. Throughout the middle of the race, that margin was maintained, although we could see that they were working hard and we realised that we were still in with a chance. We made a major effort with 200 metres remaining, moving through Stratford surprisingly quickly and opening a lead of half a length. As they fought back, we strayed into their water, but thankfully we were far enough ahead to avoid a collision (and disqualification!). Having started racing the pair just one weekend before, we were very excited to win.

Crews: S4 4+: David Rothe (bow), Mark Peachey, Richard Thompson, David Sampson (stroke), Claire Kwan (cox); S3 2-: Richard Thompson (bow, steering), David Sampson (stroke).

Bristol Regatta – S3 4+ lost to Imperial College/University of Bristol; S3 2- lost to City of Bristol

On the Sunday, we raced in the docks at Bristol on a course best described as a 500 metre bowside corner lined with enormous spherical buoys. Unfortunately there is no stagger on the start, so the inside lane holds an advantage.

Having moved up to S3, we raced Imperial College/University of Bristol in the first race of the day. On the outside of the bend, we struggled to stay in contact through the first half of the race. We had an altercation with a buoy near the end, so we trailed our opponents over the line by several lengths.

The pairs race was tough. Again we drew the outside of the bend and we had a difficult time dealing with the swell. We were drawn against a local pair from City of Bristol who were clearly more comfortable with the conditions than we were. It didn't help that our race was delayed while the rescue boat fished out a sculler from the previous race. Soon after the start, I thumped a buoy on the outside of the course. We had just recovered from that when I thumped another buoy, and when we finally settled down in the middle of the lane, Richard's blade sythed through a flock of ducks. We negotiated the second half of the course without ramming any more obstacles, and we held our opponents to a respectable margin of two and a half lengths.

Although ours were the only Nines crews to enter Bristol, several Nines rowers and our cox Claire were part of successful Black Sheep crews in S1 8+ and mixed 8+.

Crews: S3 4+: David Rothe (bow), Mark Peachey, Richard Thompson, David Sampson (stroke), Claire Kwan (cox); S3 2-: Richard Thompson (bow, steering), David Sampson (stroke).

Ross-on-Wye Regatta – S3 4+ beat Agecroft A and Cambridge University Lightweights, lost to Thames A; S3 2- lost to Ross

On the Bank Holiday Monday, we raced at Ross-on-Wye over an unusual 750 metre course featuring a staggered start, a sweeping bowside corner, and a staggered finish!

We drew an impressive-looking crew from Agecroft in the first round of the fours, and we didn't have a good race. The rhythm was very rushed and we were moving the boat by brute force. Though Agecroft were out of sight, we hung in grimly, and we could hardly believe it when we learned that we had won by a canvas courtesy of the staggered finish. After some serious soul-searching back on dry land, we faced the Cambridge University Lightweights Development Squad in the second round, and we beat them soundly by two and a half lengths. The semi-final against Thames was a tight contest, and although we rowed well, Thames rowed better and won by a length. They went on to win the final too.

We raced the locals from Ross in the first round of the pairs. Though we didn't get through, we were pleased with our race, coming back from a length down at half way to lose by just half a length.

Crews: S3 4+: David Rothe (bow), Mark Peachey, Richard Thompson, David Sampson (stroke), Claire Kwan (cox); S3 2-: Richard Thompson (bow, steering), David Sampson (stroke).

Race results


The 2002 regatta season certainly had its ups and downs! Early in the season, racing in scratch crews was unsuccessful and frustrating. However, we turned the season around in the Town Bumps, when an injection of new personnel revitalised the squad. The Bumps races were some of the most thrilling and exhausting events I have ever experienced! We worked hard on the four and the pair for the end of season events at Abingdon and GBR, and we were delighted to pick up a few pots to finish on a high.

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