Hi, my name is Stephen and I’m going to be DCBC’s new Captain of Boats for 2018-19. I take over the role from Alex, who did a superb job last year, and look to push on both men’s and women’s squads into the new academic year.
My new job as Captain of Boats comes off a year in the role of Women’s Captain. My introduction last year gives some background of my journey from novice to captain, but so much has changed since last year. I’ve experienced some of the best moments of my entire three years at Cambridge and also had to make some tough choices.
I began last year as cox of W1, a role I had held for over a year already. I don’t feel it would be wrong to say what we lacked as a crew was out and out strength; much larger crews on the river used their grunt during the first races of term and we found ourselves a way off the top boats. Subsequently, in our first race of the year, Autumn head, we sadly lost by over 26 seconds on a 2k course.
However, Downing train harder than anyone else. We push ourselves further and commit more than any other club on the river. This is what makes me so proud to represent our college at any opportunity I get; and this is how we turned a 26 second defeat into a 6 second victory on the same crew when we raced in Fairbairns at the end of Michelmas.
This same drive was carried into Lent term where we started third on the river in Bumps. After an equally intense 6 weeks we were thwarted by horrific conditions on the river. Two days of arriving at the boathouse only to be told racing was cancelled was very frustrating. But when we got the opportunity to race on day 3 we took it with both hands.
Heading off behind a Clare crew we knew we were faster than, and in front of a Newnham crew who had the legs on us, we knew it was going to be tough. What followed was a three-boat sandwich with inches separating the crews. Exiting Ditton, there was a blue and yellow bow level with me in the coxes seat, while we had overlap on the yellow stern in front. The first contact came from in front and the bump was ours, my first ever! This moment came second only to winning the headship in 2016 in my rowing achievements and made every outing, and every erg I attended more than worth it.
We could have carried on into Easter term with everything as normal. Riding on a high from my first bump I could have moved into my seventh consecutive term of W1 coxing. The problem with this, although it took me a while to realise, is that if you keep doing the same thing you’re likely to get the same results. And W1 had fallen short in 4 previous attempts to take the headship. We had come feet away in Lent 2017 and climbed back to second in Lent 2018, but no further. I was convinced by Ian (our head coach) it was time to hand over the seat, but it had to be somebody exceptional. Thankfully, former W1 cox, Ed, returned from his postgraduate studies (read: loan spell) at Trinity Hall to steer the crew into a tricky campaign. The result was positive however, moving up one place, taking out Cauis and building for the future.
So now we reach the present time. I am without a seat in a boat and newly elected head of the boat club, an unusual position for sure. I plan to do something people tried to convince me to do on my first week at Cambridge, learn to row. I will be a novice alongside around 80 freshers. I will spend my other mornings coaching crews, continuing my work from Easter term helping coach W1, and filling in the coxing seat whenever required.
I hope for success from all levels of the boat club throughout the year and think there’s a good chance I will be directly involved with a lot of it. I also hope my neutrality between squads can continue to bring them closer together, becoming one true DCBC.
Stephen Harris – Captain of Boats 2018/19