W1 - by Eliza MP
Delirium. The sing of a boat running underneath. The single clunk of eight oarlocks. Trembling hands, white roses, a chesty cough and the smell of Prosecco. Rod smiling.
Saturday lives with me in a series of flashes, all of them doused in happiness and sunshine and jubilation at keeping the Headship at Wadham for the third year in a row.
Our boat, our race.
The nine of us had sat in a boat together precisely twice before Wednesday. If Hilary was the term of guess-the-flag-color (red, always red), Trinity was one long game of rower-roulette. The first weeks we spent as a 1st IV, not a 1st VIII, and when we did finally get an VIII out our bow-side seats changed hands quicker than kingship in GoT. Boat Club Society Treasurer Diana Mountain sat in at bow for an outing, Hannah Stratford found herself bouncing from seven to five to three and back, and our soon-to-be captain Olivia switched sides every outing for a month. Lena Mangold, in a show of considerable bravery, moved up into the boat just over a week before VIIIs, and the Sunday before racing we were joined by Maddy Badcott and Anna Robotham, our two Blues, who graciously decided to forego post-finals revelry to defend Wadham’s Headship. With just two outings behind us, on Wednesday afternoon we stared out into the abyss of the absolute unknown.
The unknown, it turns out, was called Pembroke, and they were fast.
Bumps racing is a 96-hour game of psychological chicken. And nowhere is it worse than at the Head, where you cannot chase but only run, run away. What was stunning, what kept us the Headship – and what makes me bone-shatteringly proud – is that we refused to panic (well, aside from that little bit on Thursday). Even when we found out that Pembroke had made a mid-race crew change to pack even more Blues into their boat, we collected ourselves as a crew and kept our heads and our minds in our boat. We had learned over the preceding days that the second half of the race was our half of the race; we would hold them as they pushed and pushed, and when they couldn’t push anymore we would just pull away.
On Friday their newly formulated crew threw every single thing they had at us; they pushed off the bung line and they pushed through the Gut and they pushed on the crossing, and they closed. They did close. But there is a limit to how long any rower can push. Halfway down the course they had depleted themselves and our race was just beginning; as we reached Univ boathouse the water between us was widening. Sadly that was also when the klaxon, caused by the unfortunate meeting of the Teddy Hall cox and an errant Oriel blade, sounded. But in that moment we knew we could hold them; they had shown their entire hand and we had matched it, card for card.
Our boat, our race.
So as we sat at the bung line on Saturday, very much sober in a sea of drunken happiness, we prepared ourselves to watch their pink backs close us down – half a length, a quarter– and to hold them there. But in that first draw each of us committed ourselves in a way I don’t think we quite had to that point, and the boat moved. We held station on Pembroke through the Gut and down Greenbanks and past the absolute madness of Boathouse Island and across the finish line in the knowledge that we hadn’t simply run, we had lead. We had dictated that race, and we had rowed it well. Our boat. Our race.
Happy Birthday, Rod. We got you another Headship. We hope you like it.
W1: Joe Reason (c) - Rachel Anderson (s), Anna Robotham, Maddy Badcott, Lia Orlando, Olivia Weatherhead, Lena Mangold, Maddy Butler, Eliza Mauhs-Pugh (b).
W2 - by Vera Tardos
After just a single outing as a crew (shout out to Georgia who sacrificed the glory of W3 blades last minute to row with us), we started off the week determined to maintain W2 headship.
We began in 3rd place in division 3 on the first day, an unusually high position for W2. After a good start we were quickly gaining on Corpus Christi, but before we could go for the bump, Brasenose decided to ruin our week and crashed into the bank, allowing Corpus to bump out on them just in time. LMH, on their way up to division 2, caught us soon after.
The strong Wolfson II made us relive our worst memories of Christ Church Regatta on the second day. They made the most of our less than perfect start and continued to gain on us steadily, finally bumping us just after Donny Bridge. However, although we did not know it at the time, this was the day when we achieved our biggest victory of the regatta: taking such a badass crew photo*, that its awesomeness will surely go down in WCBC history.
We finally got to actually do a bit of rowing on the third day, getting to top gut before St Hilda’s bumped us. Although we were not able to fulfill our dream of rowing the entire course, improving every day and getting farther was a great feeling.
On the final day of racing we were more determined than ever to row over and give everyone at the boathouse something to cheer about. We managed to push off St Antony’s after a great start, but unfortunately they still caught up and bumped us in the gut. Still, we truly gave it our all until the very last stroke, and came off the water (/drank our Pimms) with our heads held high.
Getting spoons is always disappointing, but W2 is still in a really good position, and with a bit of luck (and a lot of land training!), we might just get that headship back next year.
We ended the day in high spirits though as we cheered on M2 and M1, and screamed ourselves hoarse watching W1 maintain the headship.
Overall, we rowed well and together, and didn’t make any mistakes; it was perhaps merely our lack of love for ergs that was our downfall. Steph told us she’s proud of us, and honestly, what more could we want?
W2: Dani Chattenton (c) - Giulia Vidori (s), Vera Tardos, Georgia Mason, Jessica Morgan, Sam Harris, Megan Edwards, Natasha Davie, Christina Tang (b)
W3 - by Linnea Jacobsson and Kristina Kampfer
After four days of fierce competition, W3 unexpectedly bumped their way up to blades. Neither a daily changing crew nor inexperience stood in the way of another victory for the Wadham Boat Club.
The Wednesday race was short but sweet: chased by Baliol III and chasing Pembroke IV, the first bump followed 4 bung lines down. W3 showed how a powerful race start ought to be done.
Chasing St Anne’s II on Thursday proved to be a bit more demanding. Showing their strength and ferocity, W3 successfully hunted down St Anne’s at the Gut after a together, consistent and focused row.
The third race day, W3 chased and was being chased by more competitive crews. However, the girls went for it and pushed almost straight from the rhythm call. The row was more reactive when those pushes were needed, resulting in a quick Christ Church III bump.
Saturday’s race – the crew stayed tall, long and strong, and went for the four-for-four, or in other words: Blades. New College III was a strong crew with a few upward bumps on their record, but W3 had a good start and bumped them shortly after Donnington Bridge.
The crew is thankful to have been supported by the charming cox, Scott Houghton, and beloved coach, Stephanie Hall.
W3: Scott Houghton (Adit Kale for rowing on) (c) - Linnea Jacobsson (s), Alienor Hunter, Emma Doran (Sophie Aldred for Wed), Therese Feiler (Meaghan Riley for RO, Thur, Fri), Kristina Kæmpfer, Nicole Sochor, Louise Tear (Jen Appleby for Fri), Lynn Chua (b)
M1 - by Nick Basty
The pre-Summer VIIIs rumour mill had some contradictory predictions for M1’s performance: “I don't even know if a parallel universe exists where Wadham are good right now“, amongst other derogatory quotes, was found on every “chopper’s" favourite anonymous forum, RowChat, whereas the Cherwell hailed us as being “the ones to watch at the bottom of the division”, giving us the second best odds for blades behind Keble. After a strong Torpids campaign, M1 lost 3 rowers (Jems to exams, Patrick to an injury and Cam to Papua New Guinea and dengue fever!), but Tom Malpas and Nick Basty from M2 and the hibernating Hector Manly quickly integrated into M1. Having stepped up the outing volume from a weather impaired Hilary term, M1 were ready for the challenge.
Day one had us chasing Balliol whilst being chased by fellow Godstow regulars New College in their brand new 'Hudson Ultimate Super Predator'. We got the bump just after Donnington Bridge, holding off New at a distance - setting us up for a good week ahead. Here's a view of our bump from Donnington Bridge one minute in: https://youtu.be/8Fqoteg-uPg .
Day two was never going to be as straightforward. While we knew that there would not be much of a challenge from behind, our worries were two places above us. We were chasing St Edmund Hall (SEH) who were chasing Trinity, who, having been bumped by University College on day one, were looking very poor. On the video above, it can be seen that Balliol seem to be closing on SEH as we bumped them, giving us an indication we were hopefully faster than SEH. How bad were Trinity going to be? Would we catch SEH before they could catch Trinity? These were the questions on everybody’s mind, but they should not have been. “This is blades” said Rod in the locker room before we went out. After a nervous start, we held SEH at 1 length until Donnington Bridge, whilst they were gaining fast on Trinity. Before going under the bridge, Tim called a “legs ten” and we were finally flying like we were used to, closing the gap to SEH rapidly every stroke but it was too late. SEH bumped out as we were about a canvas off. We had experienced the cruelty of bumps racing, but had to move on from this depressing Thursday immediately.
On day three we were chasing the falling Trinity who looked like they were on for spoons, but as Rod said “No bump is easy, you have to make it easy”. The mood was still a bit low from the missed bump the day before, but we all were looking for a fresh start and to get the focus right from stroke one to bounce back from the disappointment. On the approach to the bridge, Tim called a “legs ten”, one stroke later we had the bump. There is great drone footage of part of our race here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lUZebRBNIw We come into the picture at 1:07 moving away from New. Just seconds after the drone turns away we had the bump way before Donnington Bridge! Moods were better again, this was a very strong row and we were looking forward to have another crack at SEH on Saturday, as they failed to bump Univ (who bumped Magdalen).
My favourite day of the year was finally here, Saturday of Summer VIIIs! Riverbanks full of people: old rowers, families and friends came to have burgers, Pimm’s and to watch some bumps. All of us were determined we would not let SEH, who were chasing a falling Magdalen, escape again. We knew we could make it, this would be a very similar race but we had learned from our mistake. Our race, heads in the boat and let’s not worry about Magdalen. We pushed off and rowed eyes closed all the way to Longbridges, keeping our composure whilst thousands of people watched from the banks. After a strong start, we gained gradually until the bridge. Going past the bridge we found another gear, and hearing "their cox has taken a dodgy line" (a brilliant call made by Tim) we rapidly closed to a canvas. But it was not over, SEH were closing hard onto Magdalen, would it become a similar situation to Thursday? “DO YOU WANT THIS BUMP?!” yelled Tim in the gut. The crowd was cheering, the tannoy was going crazy, everything became a blur - BANG! There was a massive impact, we had bumped Teddy Hall!!
A magnificent end to a wonderful week. In addition to causing everybody in WCBC joy about the bump, we may have also saved Magdalen from spoons! Down towards the bottom of this blog post you can find a video link taken from Tim's GoPro - it makes for satisfying watching! It was a bump to remember for me, great job M1! We had to dig deep and we delivered. For the first time in over 36 years, Wadham is above St Edmund Hall in Summer Eights and back on 8th position for the first time since 1978.
M1: Tim Davies (c) - James Evry (s), Jonathan Cheung, Kjølv Egeland, Hector Manly, Rich Appleby, Moritz Esch, Nick Basty, Tom Malpas (b)
M2 - by Gabriel Dalboozi
'Twas a dreary sun soaked morn as M2 drifted ever closer to the start. The tension was unbearable, desperation for relief filled the boat with the occasional sorrow filled cry of "I wish I'd gone for a p*ss". We drifted aside the bank awaiting the Walker Cry. A shot rang out. A countdown began. 9 men at attention. And then it began. We drew thrice. Then lengthened. And lengthened again. Soon enough we were ten strokes in, already pushing hard then a cry from the shore, we were growing closer. Alas twas to no avail. Twice did we row over, our chances of victory snatched from a canvas or so. Once did we stop as a mad Merton cox gave in to the Drowned Gods. But once did we taste the sweet nectar of victory as our oars delicately clattered the heads of the ancient yellowed grad students we were chasing. 'Twas a battle well fought. Yet for naught. As TJs bristly beard did wobble, A tear, No blades for all his trouble, Oh dear.
M2: Ben Walker (c) - Joe Reason (s), Roy Kimachia, Kishan Makwana, Gabriel Dalboozi, Louis Skinner, Edoardo Pirovano, Moritz Seiler, Seb Grogan (b)
M3 - by James Evry
Popularly known as 'Mdream' by their adoring fan, the crew came together for only 2 brief outings before racing (if it's good enough for W1 it's good enough for them), the first of which involved possibly more crabs than the Isis has ever seen in a single outing (including a heels-over-head near ejector, a dark art that few other than Avishek have ever mastered). Still, the dream lived on and the boys went into racing at the very foot of fixed divisions, determined to make an impact.
On day one, their impact unfortunately occurred at the wrong end of the boat. with Univ 3 bumping out ahead too early to give M3 a sniff of catching them, what can only be described as a demonically possessed caterpillar (Somerville M2) hunted down our boys from behind, rating something far higher than physics should have allowed. M3 were bumped on the entrance to the gut. The dream was dead.
With blades hopes now out the window and sitting in the miserable position of sandwich boat, day 2 was tragically even shorter than day 1, with M3 mown down by a rapid LMH 2. Despite the two days of being bumped, cox Lia Orlando made valiant efforts to hold off the attackers, risking life and limb with perfectly late concessions, proving where her priorities lie between her W1 5-seat and Mdream.
Even before getting on the water, day 3 took a turn for the worse. Lia was stuck in Reading on medic duties, meaning I had to take the reigns on this wild and unpredictable crew. After a short prayer that luck would guide our course clear of the banks, we set off for the bunglines, practicing calling my first racing starts along the way. Amazingly, when we shot of the start line we gained rapidly on the demonically possessed caterpillar (Somerville M2) that had bumped us on day 1, but Mansfield M2 were likewise closing on us fast from behind. Through the gut it we went hell for leather after the demonically possessed caterpillar (Somerville M2), closing to just 1 foot on the exit. I was yelling to the boys "Canvas, canvas canvas, go now go go go!!!" but alas after a swipe and miss from Mansfield behind, we were eventually bumped when Tom Johnes ran out of his 40 seconds' worth of juice. After the race, comments from bow four including "I wish I had known how close we were, I couldn't hear a bloody thing!" taught me that screaming in combination with electronic amplification can be counterproductive....
Day 4 and we were back in the boat, with supersubs Ross in for a sadly ill Edu, and me for an unfortunately injured Lia. Having learnt many lessons from the previous day, we had prepared properly for this race: I turned the cox box volume down to minimum; Tom Johnes and Robin had 'fuelled up' overnight at the alumni's beer eight dinner, arriving at the river raring to go and numb to all pain (at least once TJ had borrowed some sunglasses to ease the headache); and Hao ensuring he nourished himself properly with KFC chicken wings and a burger in the 10 minutes prior to boating.
Anticipating the worst with Keble M3 chasing, I wasn't surprised to hear Scott relaying to me the fact that Keble were closing hard on us off the start and into the gut, down to less than a canvas. But then from somewhere deep in their bodies, the chicken wings and beer started to kick in, the sun came out from behind the clouds, and M3 started to pull away from Keble. Moving to a full length clear past the boathouses to rapturous applause, we steamed away and over the finish line. The dream came back to life, and spoons were saved for another year.
M3: Lia Orlando/James Evry (c) - Scott Houghton (s), Alberico Santiano, Tom Johnes, Leevi Mehtäjärvi, Robin Wilson, Eduardo Beattie Eizaguirre, Hao Wen, Avishek Mondal (b)
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