Year in Review – 2014/15

It has been another fantastic year for DCBC, with some formidable achievements and several new experiences for many members of the Club.  The year began early with the women’s IV+ returning to Cambridge in mid September to train for the Head of the Charles, one of the biggest international regattas held in Boston, USA.  2014 was the first time we’ve sent a women’s crew and, racing in the category for University crews, they placed 20th, a great result. HOCR was also the racing debut for the Segreants Boat Club, who had a fantastic race and hope to repeat the experience this year. Our huge thanks goes to Paul Hatfield and Gabrielle Bennett for their work and generosity in ensuring this trip was such a success.

Meanwhile, the men’s squad had suffered depleted numbers, with 5 of the squad trialling and the majority of last year’s M1 having graduated.  Nevertheless, our Men’s Captain worked incredibly hard to put together a crew in Michaelmas, recruiting a few new faces and motivating the entire squad.  Some of the more senior members headed to London in November to race Fours Head, placing 129th overall and 11th in the IM2 division.  In the run up to Fairbairns, all of the crews competed in Winter Head, forming two men’s and two women’s composites of senior and novice rowers.  This was a great opportunity for the novices and we were extremely impressed with their attitudes and commitment.  In Fairbairns, the novice W1 came 3rd overall and the novice M1 13th, some good results for the crews and plenty for us to work with for training camp.

Lent began with our annual training camp to Seville, which, once again, was a huge success.  The novices improved drastically and we returned to Cambridge with the top boats for both squads fairly set and some significant mileage under our belts.  The term began well, with M1 taking an early win at the Winter Head to Head, and W1 finishing 5th.  A few weeks later, M1 won Pembroke Regatta with W1 finishing second, and the following day M1 headed to Bedford to race Bedford Head, narrowly losing the IM3 and IM2 divisions, placing second in both.

We had three crews (M1, W1, M2) racing in the Lent Bumps, since unfortunately W2 had not managed to ‘get on’ due to a reduced number of divisions this year.

M2 comprised 8 novices (including the cox) and one former M3 rower, so was a relatively inexperienced boat. Nevertheless, thanks to the Segreants that had come down to coach them throughout the term, they had continued to improve since training camp.  Unfortunately, though, there were some fast crews around them and despite some fast starts, M2 were bumped each day.  The result was a harsh one for the crew but morale remained high throughout and, in the words of one crew member, the experience was a steep learning curve.

W1 also had a difficult time in Lents, with a crew containing three novices, and some quick crews around them. On the first day, they held off one of the fastest crews, Christs (the ultimate winners of the headship), until the last few strokes of the race.  The second day they went hard off the start in hopes of getting Christs back but they blew and were shortly bumped themselves by Jesus. A solid row over on the third day set them up to finish on a high on the last day. The crew put in their best performance of the term, rapidly gaining on FaT and bumping them going round Grassy Corner.

M1’s bumps began rather differently. Starting off on the headship station, it was difficult to know how fast they were in comparison to Caius behind them.  As a result, they started hard and managed to hold Caius on station until the Railway bridge; there Caius made a push, but by this point it was too late and M1 finished the first day still with the headship.  On the second day, however, the crew struggled to find the same rhythm and Caius closed in for the bump just before the Railway Bridge. The last two days saw some strong rows for both crews but ultimately, Downing were not fast enough to close that gap, finishing Bumps in 2nd position. It was a disappointing result after the first day, but we were particularly proud of the three novices in the boat, since to hold off a crew with several Blues was an incredible achievement.

M1 defended their Lents Headship on day 1 in 2014 and finished the week in 2nd.
M1 defended their Lents Headship on day 1 in 2014 and finished the week in 2nd.

Over Easter, M1 headed in the same crew line-up to the Head of the River. Conditions were fairly blustery and it was unclear if the race was going to be called off (for the third time running) but the weather calmed just as the crews were heading to marshal and so the race was able to go ahead.  They were the fastest Cambridge college, 9th in IM3 and 89th overall, a solid result for a crew with three novices.

A few weeks later, the first women’s boat race took place on the Tideway.  We were delighted to be represented by Holly Hill, a novice in 2013, whose rowing achievements have been astounding.

Mays term also began with a pre-term training camp, this time on the Cam.  Both squads had new recruits with the return of the triallists and a few old faces who came back for their last set of Bumps.  Some seat racing and testing during the camp allowed us to set the crews before the start of term and contributed to our double win at Head of the Cam.  This was also the weekend of Segreants day and we had a fantastic turnout of 5 Segreants boats racing Head of the Cam, along with two scullers. Special mention to the 1985 Henley M1 who reunited for Segs Day, along with a boat formed of DCBC women from the 1980s.

Easter term also involved a lot of off-Cam racing, particularly for the M1 IV+ aiming to pre-qualify for Henley.  Racing at Wallingford, they came second in their heat and, entering the final as the slowest crew, again came second.  However, a few weeks later, we were notified that the crew who had won had been disqualified due to an undeclared sub, which gave Downing the win!  At Bedford a few weeks later, the VIII came second in the Collegiate category, losing narrowly to Oriel College, Oxford.  Just before exams started to hit, the IV headed to Nottingham, where they won their heat and then came second in the final, only a length behind the CUBC’s Development Squad IV.

Mays W1 (minus Holly) celebrate a win at Champs Head.
Mays W1 (minus Holly) celebrate a win at Champs Head.

Although the women didn’t make it off Cam, they had some great results on the Cam, most notably winning Champs Head, in which they beat Caius, who’d be chasing them in Mays, by a second.  Neither had their full crew, however, as Holly Hill (now trialling for GB) was in Germany racing in her pair with her Caius partner, Melissa Wilson.

Unfortunately, M1 did not have the successful Bumps they were hoping for.  Bumped by Maggie on the first day, they went all out on the second day in an attempt to get them back but were bumped by a very rapid Pembroke crew.  The third day, however, was an impressive attempt from the whole crew: despite FaT having overlap, M1 avoided the bump by steering the stern across at the last minute and thus preventing contact.  FaT then held it up, assuming they had bumped and after pulling in, got overtaken by Jesus, thus being bumped!  The final day was not quite the result the crew would have liked, though, and a bump by Jesus resulted in the crew finishing 5th.  Importantly, though, this is a legacy left for next year which still enables M1 to get the headship.  M2 and M3 had not had an easy term but thanks to our Segreant coaches they came on significantly in the run up to bumps.  This was not enough, however, to stay away from the faster crews around them and both crews went down each day, earning their spoons.  Despite the result, every member of the crews thoroughly enjoyed their Bumps experience and it ensures that there is plenty of room for improvement next year.

W2 had an eventful week to regain their place in the second division. Photo credit to QTy Photography.
W2 had an eventful week to regain their place in the second division. Photo credit to QTy Photography.

W2 had a far more successful week and on the first day they bumped LMBC to secure their position in the second division.  The second day saw a row over and although they were bumped back to sandwich boat on day 3, a gutsy row on the final day resulted in a bump on Corpus W1, again putting them solidly in Division 2, where they deserve to be. W1 had yet more success, rowing over on the headship station every single day, with up to 4 lengths of clear water over Caius.  Although the girls made it look very easy, it was a result of their hard training this term and a fantastic result for the Club.

The end of bumps was not, however, the end of the rowing calendar for DCBC.  The following weekend, a W1 IV+ headed to Henley Women’s Regatta, where they qualified through the time trial to make the fastest 12 boats of the category.  That afternoon, the women raced UCL’s A crew, the fastest crew in the time trial, and unfortunately lost by 2 lengths. Nevertheless, it was a fantastic experience for all involved and with a proper training regime for the IV next year, they are keen to improve on that result.

It has been another great year of results for DCBC and I have thoroughly enjoyed my time captaining the Club.  I would like to thank my fellow captains without whom these results would not have been achieved.  Special thanks also to our Director of Rowing, Ian Watson, and to all the Segreants for their continuing support.  Feroces ad mortem!

Jess, Captain of Boats 2014-15