The Men’s Side took to the Cam for the first race of the year, the 2.6km Head of the Cam. Here’s how they got on:
With the Churchill men’s crew having completed more national lockdowns than ergs since last rowing in Christmas Head, expectations were conservative going into Saturday’s Head of the Cam race. Over the Easter vacation the men’s side had been rotating all available senior rowers into 8s, due a shortage of rowers so there had been no set crews. Yet, when the first race of the year was announced the boys jumped at the chance to shake the rust off and a race crew was set. The day before the race we had our first outing together (#preparation) where, coached by Churchill veteran Rob Murphy and Christian Lindig and coxed by Hei Li, we laid out the race plan; within which we had a strong emphasis on staying relaxed and technical in the first portion of the race. Rob and Hei Li claim this was all in the name of tactics, I however, think there was an unspoken realisation that the 2.6k course was really going to test the fitness of the crew – probably due to the aforementioned lack of lockdown erging.
The crew arrived at the boathouse on Saturday morning, greeted by glorious sunshine and headed off to the marshalling point, pulling off a practice rolling start that surpassed anything achieved the day before – the mood was set. However, slightly worried that we would be late, we rowed down steady state with firm pressure but arrived to see the footpath deserted at the motorway bridge. We were late but it appears almost everyone else was later. Unflappable as ever though, the crew took the opportunity to step out of the boat, review the race plan and work on our farmer’s tans.
It wasn’t long though before the race did get underway and as the first crew in the division, we would lead the whole procession up the Cam. A final call to stay relaxed and technical came from the bank before a motivation cry of ‘this is the first step to Henley’ was heard from Rob and we were ready. The race began with a rolling start where Hei Li called for 3 strong steady state strokes before 3 winds and 5 power strokes before passing under the motorway bridge and we were off. As planned, we kept it relaxed and technically sound through the first 1k with some of the best rowing the men’s side has seen since the resumption of rowing. We quickly pushed the other crews in the division away and settled into our rate 32 for the remainder of the course. When we appeared at the bottom of the reach the crew were still rowing strongly as one and it continued without incident up the reach, through the P&E and home up to Top Finish accompanied by the famous ‘Chunky Time’ call by Hei Li for the last 500 metres.
Overall, a very positive outing for the men’s side finishing 15th overall (including the town boats) with a time of 9:52 having averaged a 1:52.9 split throughout. We now look to build on this throughout the Easter term that promises to be packed full of races and will be in action again next weekend, this time for some side-by-side racing, in City Sprints ie. ‘‘the second step to Henley’.
Chris Hughes (5 seat and Lower Boats’ Captain)