Hello – I’m Charlie, the new Men’s Captain for DCBC. I’m attempting to fill the boots of Brennen Heames, who did such impressive job last year that he is now trialling for the university lightweight squad. When Brennen himself was stepping into this position in 2014, he knew he was facing an enormous challenge – sheer lack of numbers. The shortage of rowers in the men’s squad was a major headache for him. But it was a mark of Brennen’s talent as captain that he was able to take the few we did have and, through a combination of intense training and outrageously skilful coaching, turn the crew he did have into a group with enough ability to have a really successful year.
When I came to Downing I’d never rowed before, but really wanted to try it. The club were so welcoming, and really enthusiastic to recruit new members – albeit they would have taken on a battered sausage with a face drawn on it if it was capable of holding an oar… DCBC is renowned for taking on novice rowers and turning them into hugely talented athletes. As a club we’ve never had a huge intake of school rowers, so instead have had to rely on the immense coaching of Ian Watson and the incredibly supportive atmosphere in the club to develop novices into the rowing machines which are needed to tackle the first division in Bumps.
I spent Michaelmas rowing in one of the novice men’s boats under the intelligent coaching of third-year engineer Andrew Niven, who was injured at the time and so unable to train himself. After a hectic term rowing on the Cam – rammed with novice boats – I then competed in Clare Novices towards the end of the term. This was my first experience of competitive racing – and what an incredible adrenaline rush! Mid-Michaelmas I also competed in Queens’ Ergs, a university-wide erging competition for novice rowers. It was an evening of sheer enjoyment, and definitely recommend to anyone hoping to start rowing in Michaelmas.
Following the Christmas vacation, I joined the Downing training camp to Seville, where I spent a week rowing on huge rivers in the blazing sun – an opportunity to really improve my technique and fitness under the coaching of Ian, the DCBC Boatman and world silver medallist. I was then able to return to college in Lent term and have a genuine chance at rowing in the first boat for Downing. After a pretty intense selection process I was chosen, along with three other first years, to row in the first Men’s VIII. I can honestly say that my satisfaction in that achievement was one of the highlights of my life so far.
At the same time, being with the rowing team does not mean that your life has to exclude everything else. It’s perfectly possible to do more than one sport for the college – I myself also play rugby: training most Sunday mornings, with games on Tuesdays. (Although a spate of injuries meant our side was often depleted, we still managed to win the 2015 Cuppers Plate last season). Like everything, you’ll get out of rowing what you put in – but you never need to feel that you can’t be part of it if you’re not able to commit to being at every meeting, social and training session.
But of course there are times when things get very busy. I spent much of Lent term racing both on and off the Cam, involving some really successful results with some impressive victories! The term was then finished off with an emotional Bumps campaign. We started in Headship position, but heartbreakingly got bumped by Caius down to second position on Day 2. Despite not holding the headship, the Lent Bumps was a truly incredible experience – and a huge learning curve!
Going into the Easter vacation I knew I’d have to train hard over the holidays to stand a chance of getting a seat in the first Men’s VIII during Easter term, as there were several students returning from university training. After another intense selection process I earned the 3 seat in the first VIII, meaning I was the only fresher to get a place in the first boat – another huge achievement and one that meant I had the opportunity to race against some of the biggest names in Cambridge University rowing. Easter term once again saw some very successful results against other colleges. But despite some intensely tricky exams looming – I’m studying Medicine – I continued to train hard right up to May Bumps. It would turn out that these would be the most exciting four consecutive days of my life.
Once again, despite being bumped from second place to fifth place over the course of the four days, it was still a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The magnificent dinner that followed – combined with the women retaining their Headship – just made the whole thing so special.
I have had the opportunity to race in so many different locations since joining DCBC, and have endured nearly a full year of tough training. I felt that this gave me the capability to be Men’s captain in the coming year. In both Lent and May bumps, we’re in a position to take back the Headship in 2016 – so with some hard training, dedicated rowing and generally embracing the motivating atmosphere that DCBC provides, I’m confident that we can do it!!