Cambridge '99 – Summer 2003


(pot)(beer)X-Press Head – S3 8+ finished 1st

We entered a combined Churchill College / Cambridge '99 crew for the X-Press Head in Cambridge on 16 June. We had to scramble for substitutes on race day after two late withdrawls, but we managed to put together a competitive line-up. We went off first and rowed pretty well for a scratch crew, rating 34 in the early stages and never lower than 32. Our time of 9'16" was 22" faster than the second placed crew, and we were pleased to win so convincingly. After the race, we gathered at the Cambridge Blue for the traditional hog roast and to celebrate our victory with the other competitors. Who needs Henley?

Crew: David Rothe (bow), Rich Mathias, Francois Leesch, Pete Kelly, Andy Kidd, David Sampson, Noel Smith, Ben Ramsden (stroke), Cecily Barber (cox).

CRA Town Bumps – Third VIII bumped Hornets, finished 10th

We started Cambridge Town Bumps in 11th place, chasing City II and chased by Cantabs II. Even by Town Bumps standards, the crew was drawn from a wide range of sources.

On the first day, we were pushed out too far and struggled to get away straight. City II ahead bumped Hornets well before First Post Corner, so we were left to fend off Cantabs II. We had a bad patch around First Post Corner, and Cantabs closed to within a length, but we started rowing better by Grassy. Up Plough Reach, Cantabs came under pressure from behind from their Third VIII, who gained overlap at the start of the Reach and completed the bump by the Railings. That was the end of the race for us, and we cruised home for a row over.

On the second day, we bumped a sluggish Hornets crew before First Post Corner. Cantabs III behind made no impression.

On the third day, we struggled from the start to Plough Reach, making no impression on City II ahead, and working hard to maintain our distance on the Hornets crew we had bumped so easily the previous day. However, an "up two" call at the Plough revitalised our rowing, and we loosened up and started moving much better. As City II ahead bumped Rob Roy IV, we had a grandstand view of an exciting battle between Hornets, Cantabs III and Rob Roy V. On Ditton Corner, it looked like Rob Roy were well positioned to bump, but their proximity spurred Cantabs on to greater speed, and they bumped Hornets early in the Reach. We were left to row home comfortably ahead of Rob Roy, but perplexed as to why we had made such hard work of the first half of the race.

On the fourth day, we had our best row of the week. We started smoothly and held Rob Roy IV ahead while easing away from Cantabs III. Cantabs put in a big effort around Grassy Corner, closing inside a length and a half, but we moved away again up Plough Reach. Coming on the Reach, we continued to extend our advantage over Cantabs, although Rob Roy ahead were out of range. We crossed the line to complete a good race and a good Bumps, up one to 10th position overall.

Crew: Andy Fry (bow), Andy Tucker, Mark Peachey, Pete Kelly, Tom Berriman, Kevin Backhouse, David Sampson, David Rothe (stroke), Rachel Allen (cox). Tim Fisher-Jeffes replaced Pete Kelly at 4 on Wednesday and Kevin Backhouse at 6 on Friday.

Gloucester Regatta – S3 2- beat Bewdley, lost to Huntingdon; S3 8+ lost to St Edmund's Hall

We ended the regatta season with the traditional trip to Gloucester, Bristol and Ross on the August Bank Holiday weekend. Richard and I were confident of some good results in the pair, but his father fell ill in the week before the race and he had to return home. Martin kindly agreed to sub into the pair so I could still get some racing.

Martin and I hadn't rowed together in a pair until we paddled up to the start of our first race, against Bewdley. Our day got off to an exciting start as we were tucked into the bank at the finish line, waiting to move up to the start. A pair raced across the line very wide, slamming their blades against ours and causing the bow man to catch a crab. Surprisingly, they stayed upright. In our race, we got away surprisingly straight, but our opponents did not, and we clashed several times before we managed to break clear. We settled into a reasonable rhythm and won by two and a half lengths, despite a lurch half way down the course that took a chunk out of my finger. In the final, we faced Huntingdon, and this time, we didn't get away straight, swinging around to stroke side. I hoped we would get away with it, so we continued to power it through, but Martin's blade caught on the bank. We were whipped around, taking off the bowball and part of the bows, and losing any chance of victory. We extricated ourselves and had a pretty good row down the course, but all was lost.

We also raced a scratch eight in a straight final against St Edmund's Hall. We started frantically but reasonably quickly, and we were level with our opponents at half distance. However, at that vital moment, we were unable to muster any extra speed, and we went down by half a length.

Crews: S3 2-: David Sampson (bow, steering), Martin Hillier (stroke); S3 8+: Jon Monk (bow), Cathy Moore, Chris Owen, Tim Goldsbrough, David Sampson, Martin Hillier, Ed Peacock, Andy Kidd (stroke), Cecily Barber (cox).

(poor)Bristol Regatta – S3 2- lost to Cygnet

Fresh from our bruising encounter at Gloucester, we raced the pair at Bristol on the Sunday, as the rest of the Nines squad stayed in Ross nursing hangovers from the previous evening. Black Sheep were out in force at Bristol, and kept us company on the bank throughout the day.

Our race was a straight final against two Australians from Cygnet Rowing Club. Just like last year, we drew the longer, outside lane. I wasn't quite set for the start, and I missed the first stroke. I didn't panic, planning to get back on line in the next ten strokes. However, the boat wandered to bow side across the buoys and into the adjacent navigation channel, where a huge cruiser was coming up the other way. We had to take emergency evasive action, and we were significantly delayed. We got back onto the course, now well behind, and tried to settle into a rhythm. However, we were flustered by our early setback, and every time we would get up to speed, we would brush another buoy. Amazingly, our opponents started to have steering troubles of their own, and by the finish, we had closed to within two lengths. I was frustrated and embarrassed. Back on the bank, however, we had a good laugh with our opponents, joking that at least we had provided some comic entertainment for the spectators.

Crew: David Sampson (bow, steering?!), Martin Hillier (stroke).

Ross-on-Wye Regatta – S3 2- lost to Loughborough; Mixed E 8+ beat Mumbles, lost to Black Sheep

The third of regatta of the weekend was in Ross.

We raced Loughborough in the first round of the pairs. Mindful of my mishaps earlier in the weekend, I was focussed on steering a good course. We got off the line straight and were level with our opponents through the opening stages. Through the left hand bend, they took advantage of the inside line, but we remained in contention throughout, rowing well and eventually losing by just under a length.

We also raced the mixed eight, with the boys in engine room and the girls in the stern and bow. We rowed a good race in the first round against Mumbles, comfortably faster than our opponents and winning by a couple of lengths. In the next round, we faced Black Sheep, whose record in GBR mixed eight racing is unmatched. However, we went very hard off the start, rating up towards 40 and racing stroke for stroke with our more fancied opponents. I think they were rather surprised when we were still side by side at half distance. Eventually their quality told, and they started to eek out an advantage, eventually winning by three quarters of a length. Nevertheless, we were more than happy with our race.

So, although we didn't walk away with any pots from GBR, it was still a very enjoyable way to round off the regatta season.

Crews: S3 2-: David Sampson (bow, steering), Martin Hillier (stroke); Mixed E 8+: Andrea Green (bow), Julie Gray, David Sampson, Martin Hillier, Ed Peacock, Andy Kidd, Emily Corcoran, Cathy Moore (stroke), Cecily Barber (cox).

Race results


With work commitments ruling me out of trialling for the Henley squad, it was difficult to piece together a racing programme for the summer months. Nevertheless, I enjoyed some minor triumphs, including a win in the X-Press Head, a bump, and a fun weekend at GBR. I also had a great time coaching the Churchill men's first VIII to a successful campaign in the May Bumps.

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