WEHoRR and the Talbot Cup

Last weekend, CCBC’s W1 and W2 headed to the Thames for the first WEHoRR race in several years (the first time W2 have made it to WEHoRR since 1998!). W1 placed 161st and W2 placed 242nd.

On Tuesday M3 (as a composite with Selwyn M3) and W3 raced in the Talbot Cup. M3 were knocked out in the first round but W3 won two races, reaching the semi-final.

Here are the race reports:


W1 (WEHoRR): Molly Cushing, 5-seat

Motivated by the prospect of the last race of Lent term, W1 arrived at Cambridge station early on Saturday morning ready for a challenging race unlike those on the Cam to which we were so accustomed: Women’s Eights Head of the River. The race was set to be a unique and exciting experience for the whole crew; we would be facing off against not only other Oxbridge teams but international crews and the top British rowers as well, in a gruelling 6.8km race along the Thames from Chiswick to Putney.

The early start, train cancellations and my inability to buy a ticket for the correct month failed to deter us as we made our way to Kings Cross and then by tube to the river, then from the river to a football field where we would assemble Shall We Fly a short (though, as we would later discover, arduous) walk away.

Under Roly and Kieran’s instruction, the boat was assembled and, weighed down by numerous layers, water bottles and snacks, was carried slowly towards the river. However, this involved negotiating the veritable obstacle course that was the back of Barn Elms boathouse, with us narrowly missing putting the rigger through the windscreen of an ambulance and having to manoeuvre Shall We Fly up a hill, round a tight corner and through a narrow passageway not built for 19 metres worth of boat.

Despite this marathon effort, we eventually reached the water and finally pushed off, having been informed that we were the last of over 300 boats to marshal and had to reach Chiswick at an almost impossible speed. This was no problem for W1 and we soon reached the marshalling point, having got our first taste of rowing on the Thames. Coming from the Cam, where anything more than 5 boats is a traffic jam, to seeing the river filled with boats as far as the eye could see was a novel experience. After watching the top international and national boats come flying past, it was soon the turn of the 234th crew in the competition, as W1 span and began the row up to the start line. We began our start sequence as we came under Chiswick bridge: 3 builds, 5 winds and lengthen as we got to grips with the feeling of the current pushing us along at a much faster rate. The race started well, with the crew settling in to a sustainable and strong rate 28 and, encouraged by our low splits (caused mainly by our amazing strength and technique and not at all by the current) we soon came up to Barnes bridge, which signalled that we had completed the first 1.2km. The race continued to go smoothly until we were approaching Hammersmith bridge, where the water began to get more choppy than most of the boat had ever experienced. Despite the waves splashing in to the boat, drenching us all and making it much harder to stick to our rhythm, we nonetheless kept pushing and, thanks to Hei Li’s racing lines began to make progress on the crews ahead.

Continuing to push through the waves (which to me felt challenging but were apparently ‘nothing’ according to more experienced crew members) we overtook 2 boats in quick succession as we came in to the final kilometre. Hei Li called for a final push as we pulled alongside a third crew, pushing hard to overtake them as we came towards Putney Bridge. We finally finished the race strong in a respectable 23:51, ending up 161st overall.

W1 thoroughly enjoyed our first WEHoRR experience, despite challenging conditions and a much longer course than we are used to-we had a great day and our looking forward to coming back better and stronger than ever for Easter term.


W2 (WEHoRR): Alyssa, 5-seat

We arrived in London bright and early on Saturday morning ready to take on WEHoRR, which marked our first time on the Thames, and for some, our first time off the Cam. It was pretty daunting, but W2 were feeling relaxed and excited to be there. After re-assembling the boat, we then began one of the more arduous tasks of the day: carrying the boat to the river. It was a long walk and Rob was feeling very chunky (perhaps a good sign for the chunky rowing we were about to do). We eventually made it to the riverbank, albeit with bruised shoulders, where we quickly got into the boat and set off to marshalling. Despite being pushed into the bank a few times, George expertly guided us along and we got some decent rowing in as a warm-up. Before we knew it, we were being yelled at to spin and set off. While frantically de-kitting and spinning at the same isn’t the best way to start a race, we didn’t let it shake us. We quickly settled into a nice steady-state rhythm towards the start, where George called our rolling start. We set off quickly, arguably our best rolling start of the term, before settling into the rate 30 which we would then comfortably hold for the next few km. The first 4 km flew by, with George keeping us together by calling technical calls. I was thinking the race would be easy until we rounded the corner at Hammersmith bridge, when we were immediately smacked by the strong winds and unexpectedly high waves. We battled it out for the next 1.5km as waves came over us into the boat, our bow was blown around, and a few of us feared we may sink. Thankfully though, the wind eventually subsided a bit, and we were able to get back in gear to finish the last legs of the race strong. With motivation from George and spectators on the banks, we put in a final push for the last km, and even managed to gain on the boat in front of us. We crossed the finish line feeling very soggy, but mostly proud of what we’d accomplished. Being the first W2 boat from Churchill to race at WEHoRR was such an honour, and we all felt very lucky to have been a part of it. It was really the best way to end an amazing term of rowing.


W3 (Talbot Cup): Annie Anderson, Stroke

It was a beautiful Tuesday afternoon when W3 started preparing for the Talbott cup (in reality it was a merry mixture of W2, W3, and W4, but it averaged out to the registrated crew). Many introductions were made on the sunny balcony, before everyone joined in the erg room to practice (or learn) the start sequence.

After accidentally stealing M3’s blades (sorry!) we pushed off and paddled towards Plough reach for marshalling. We got some starts in, the first one was questionable to say the least but it definitely improved. After marshalling, as we saw the crews in front of us push and the adrenaline started pumping, we repeated the most important instructions of the day – stay calm, don’t panic if we fall behind at the start, and row well. We pushed off for our first race in the knock-out regatta, prepared to take on Sidney Sussex W3. Just for good measure, we did some exquisite roll ups in full view if their crew before the start. We lined up, came forward, and got full focus in the boat. As we did our start sequence, Sidney did as predicted pull away slightly. However, when the time came to gear change down from rate 38, the adrenaline did its job a bit too well and we didn’t really slow it down by much. After several increasingly insistent calls, we finally landed on a sustainable but higher than anticipated rate 31. When the crew came together, we very quickly gained on Sidney and soon most of their boat was within my clear view in stroke seat. As such, I and the rest if the crew saw their unfortunate crab partway down the reach. At this point we could pull far ahead and easily win the race.

After some very chaotic marshalling at the P&E (including a marshal basically telling a Jesus boat to ram right through us), we rowed back up to Plough reach for the second race. Once we got there though, we heard that our next competitor Queens W4 had lost their bow ball. Not letting them risk impaling us, the marshals scratched them and we could move on to the semi-final against Christs W3.

Once again we lined up at the start, ready and focused. We were more tired, already having completed one 800m race and a row over, but we also had a high confidence due to getting this far. Our competitors once again pulled away during the start, but less so than Sidney had. Quite soon after gearing down, there was some significant crunchy water with our 6 seat demonstrating her dominance by pushing through a direct clash. We gained on them through that call, and kept gaining on them until we were neck in neck. Unfortunately, while the coxes were in the middle of a staring competition, one of our crew caught a crab. A pair had to drop out while she recovered, leading to us losing about a length and a half on Christs. Still, we kept pushing, knowing that we could row faster than them, and by 2/3 of the race we had recovered half of the lost distance. However, it was not quite enough to reach the final, but we rowed home knowing that we had rowed fast and done well. As is always the case when rowing, the crab giveth, and the crab taketh away.


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