Hello! I’m Rian, a second year Physics PhD who’ll be captaining the men’s squad for the 2021/22 academic year. I joined the club in October after a disappointingly rowing-free year after my undergrad and so I was itching to get back in a boat when I came down to training. After a few weeks COVID had other ideas, but months later when restrictions subsided I returned to my usual seat (bow) and can honestly say I loved every minute. A true highlight of this year has to be rowing with Seth in the now infamous @downingpair, something I had never managed before and proved to be a steep learning curve!
The year began with a focus on land sessions and small boats thanks to COVID restrictions, which seemingly gave rise to a competition of who could go swimming the most in one outing. Most squad members were elated just to be back on the water for the first time in at least 6 months, and it was great to see plenty of people throwing themselves back into training, but unfortunately the theme of 2020 prevailed, and with a second lockdown all hope of racing (or any social occasions!!) in Michaelmas evaporated.
A third lockdown wrote off all hopes of a return to rowing in Lent term and with that hopes of a Lent bumps campaign. So began four months of intense Zoom use, whether it was for club circuits each week, socials to catch up with everyone, or talks from recent alumni. These kept the whole club intact, and I’m sure it was a big boost for many during what was a pretty isolating time for all, with a large rowing shaped hole in our lives. A running replacement for Pembroke regatta provided some glimmer of competition, and we finished 2nd and 6th overall to prove that the land training was coming along nicely.
Just like episode IV, the fourth month of 2021 brought with it a new hope. April saw the return to the river Cam for those still in Cambridge, victories for Calum Sullivan in the blue boat and Cameron Spiers and Ollie Boyne in Goldie, and perhaps most importantly, the return of the JCR Bar for post outing refreshment. After a staggered start similar to Michaelmas, the squad finally dusted the cobwebs off and returned to training in eights for the first time in the season and the May term campaign began with optimism. A strong term of racing began with some head races (Spring H2H, Radegund Mile, Champs Head) and a lovely bit of side-by-side (99’s Regatta), with the Cambridge rowing scene tentatively returning to ‘normal’.
The first taste of CUCBC competition came in the form of a combined small boats regatta and university fours, held side-by-side on a 1.1k course upstream in a slightly different format to previous years. The first day of the small boats regatta was the big one for @downingpair and after a handful of outings I had mixed feelings regarding my steering. We lined up alongside Maggie and had a strong start, pulling ahead to a decent lead in the first few hundred, before some Ollie Cook level panic steering led to me catching a boatstopper, throwing my face straight into the refreshing Cam water. A defeat so embarrassing it could only be healed by copious amounts of memes. The week also saw our Captain of Boats Andreas take to the novice single, putting a strong shift to beat a Jesus sculler before missing out to another in the final to finish a very respectable second and the four dispatching a very light blue looking Fitzwilliam crew, before losing to favourites Magdalene in the final for a further respectable finish.
The disappointment of 2021 continued with CUCBC announcing that May Bumps would be replaced with June Eights Regatta (JER), over the same course as small boats. We were one of 2 colleges fielding 3 senior men’s crews, and secured a top division place for M1 in the getting on race. The squad got off to an encouraging start, with Day 1 seeing M1 defeat Caius M2, M2 defeat Pembroke M3, and M3 drawing Emmanuel M1 and being unable to catch them. Day 2 proved to be more exciting, with M1 utilising a strong middle 500 to beat Clare M1 by a canvas in possibly the tightest race I have been a part of, M2 being beaten by Queens M2 by half a length and M3 scoring a bye. The big one for M1 came on day 3, with them lining up against once-again favourites Magdalene, executing a textbook fly-and-die, blowing hard after 600 and losing to the eventual winners. M2 had more success, beating Christ’s M2 easily, and M3 were sadly defeated by Peterhouse M1.
The final day brought more success in another tight race for M1 against Pembroke with our strong middle prevailing once again, M2 narrowly losing to Girton M1 and M3 receiving yet another bye to round off the week. Overall, this was an incredibly strong week from three crews which had been put together not much more than a week prior, during a fragmented year which had tested every single member of the squad and I was incredibly proud to be part of it.
Most importantly, I would like to thank both Aidan and Andreas for keeping the squad fresh at every opportunity, and for their endless dedication to the squad during a challenging season, which would not have been possible without them.
I absolutely cannot wait to see you all at the start of Michaelmas and build on what was a solid set of results in the 2020/21 season. I hope the training goes well and good luck to all those of you racing at HRR this summer!
Rian Howe – Men’s Captain 2021/2022