Champs Head 2019

On Sunday 5th May, Churchill crews took part in Champs Head, a 1.4 km course on the Cam between the Plough pub and the P&E. Here’s how they got on:


Armed with a new confidence after a shock win at Bedford Regatta last weekend, the crew was keen to build on that performance and to cement their place amongst the top crews on the Cam. In true W1 style, our rowing was not the cleanest, but it was powerful, which rewarded us with a pleasing result of 7/12 in the W1 division. Finishing ahead of many of our rivals in bumps, including Clare, Downing, and FaT, and with plenty of achievable improvements to made, we’re all looking forward to hopefully smashing into some more crews later this term!

Nairi Weston (Women’s Captain and Stroke)


It was with pounding hearts that W2 paddled to the start of the race. Danny, our cox, set us straight and called us forward. We snatched quick final glances at our blades to make sure they were fully submerged. Once satisfied with the set of the boat, he informed us, his voice ice-cool as always: “My hand is down.” The marshal’s voice rang out through his megaphone: “Churchill, attention, go!” We took those first crucial strokes with the confidence to relax and push hard on the legs, then lengthened into the winds. We came up to Ditton corner right as we settled into our race pace, a comfortable rate 32.

Our row down the reach was punctuated with shouts of encouragement from our bank party of 5: family and friends who had turned up to give their support. Danny, timing his calls to our strokes, kept us both calm and motivated, rotating through technique and power calls. Coming up to the railway bridge, he called for pair-wise pushes, and we all dug deep to drive hard on the legs. Just past the railway bridge was perhaps the most unexpected and exciting moment of the race: despite Bumps being over 3 weeks away, Downing M3 came nerve-rackingly close to taking a chunk out of our stern (due to some confusing instructions from a marshal). After having watched their bow swing past our stern with mere feet to spare, we focused on emptying the tank for the last minute of the race. Encouragement pouring in both from the bank and from Danny, we propelled ourselves across the finish line, finishing in 6 minutes and 12.7 seconds – over 9 seconds faster than the next fastest boat in our category. This race has solidified my belief that W2 have really come together as a crew, and we look forward to Bumps.

Kluane Barnard (W2 captain and 6 seat)


M1 had a week of technical upheaval after last weekend at Bedford, and in only one week we’ve changed the entire feeling of rowing in this crew. In the race, we pushed a higher rate than we’ve done before with a much more relaxed feeling and also went faster than we did at Bedford. So, despite placing disappointingly low in a strong field, the changes have been for the best. All that remains now is to take this new, improved style and use our last 3 weeks to grind down our split!

It’s also great to see M2 performing so well and to have some serious competition between crews on the men’s side.

Ross Tooley (Men’s Captain and Bow seat)


M2 have been keeping a low profile so far, making sure to lull the local Mays competition into a false sense of security. Champs Head marked our first outing in anger of the term, and with it our first chance to strike fear into the hearts of the boats we’ll be chasing.

Everything was falling into place; perfect atmospheric conditions, a (nearly) full crew (or at least as full as it’s been for the past two weeks, and after a strong warm up we stunned the nearby boats with an unprecedented display of technical prowess on the row-up. We were only able to take a handful of strokes at a time before having to easy as we’d caught up with the boat in front. Don’t let it be said that it was Selwyn W2.

After marshalling with no fuss, we proceeded to the start. With the boat expertly steadied by our cox Angela, the gun was called and what followed can only be described as a perfectly executed start sequence. Within moments, we had taken a Ditton corner that was sharper than our captain’s attire for the race, and were striding out down the reach. Rating efficiently between 32 and 36 we were under the railway bridge in no time, showing no signs of letting our technique fall apart until we emptied the tank in the final push. We took the finish in no time, and were able to easy and catch our breath before the next boat was even in sight.

Buoyed by what we all felt was a clean and clinical performance, we eagerly awaited to find out our time. We came second in our division (we’re on station 11 for bumps) behind a very fast Magdalene M2 (station 6), finishing 10 seconds ahead of three boats ahead of us, 16 seconds ahead of the boat chasing us, and only 4.8 seconds behind M1, with an impressive time of 4.47.1. The Overall Captain, who kindly subbed at 2, was clearly concerned in the crew chat, and the whole of M1 should be anxiously looking over their shoulders.

All the signs so far point to this boat being able to bring home plenty of success this term, and this result will only add to the growing confidence of the crew. With a newly refurbished boat coming into use this week, and the prospect of finally having a settled crew, we can only get faster.

Alastair Bayliss (Stroke)


The Churchill “Lightweights” made their debut race this past Sunday at the Champs Eights Head, proudly echoing their motto “what we lack in power, we make up for in not weighing a lot” – 5 seat. With our heavyweight teammate Jim (the boat)carrying us along, we made the row to the starting line.

The row down was anything but smooth with two crabs along the way. But the Lightweights weren’t shaken. Nerves ran high and we knew we needed to calm down, focus, and in the words of our fearless cox, keep our “heads in the boat.” Before the race, we had the chance to focus in on the race plan alongside the bank. After spirited discussions about the physics of setting the boat between a confused astrophysicist and two very knowledgable Blues, we were finally ready to focus in and push hard to victory.

We started cleanly, and came through the official starting line at a good clip. Just 1450 meters of pain ahead and we’re home free. The first 500 m were frantic with everyone trying to put their all through the start, keeping the rate high at full pressure. But soon it was inevitable this was a losing strategy. The crew gassed and it looked like the Lightweights might fall short this day.

Just then at the 500 meter mark, a burst of energy washed over the boat — renewed hope as our cox shouted us on to victory. “Power 5! Push down. Squeeeze!” We definitely felt those in our legs, but with only a kilometre left it was time to pour on the power.

The boat really came into its own with the rolling 2s. The finesse and technique of bow pair started us off. Then the two new men at seats 3 and 4 showed us why they belonged in this crew. Next it was time for our cardio king (5) and the argumentative astrophysicist (6), fueled by rage to force that boat toward the finish line. Finally, our steadfast captain (7) and our Romanian stroke joined the fray. The only disappointment of the race was that our stroke seat was never given the opportunity to carry on the banner of his countrymen and row at the staggering rate of 50 strokes per minute.

We finished the race 4th in our division … of 5. However, we have proven that the Lightweights’ strategy can work. With a cleaner start and some more of the quality rowing we saw in the final kilometre, I have faith the Lightweights can redeem the M3 crew of Lents and save us from the title of “Spoons.” Special thanks to the coaches and women of W1 who cheered us on the whole way through — their motivation and coaching makes all the difference. Onward!

Chris Bambic (6 seat)

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