Attempting to avoid the carnage that is Michaelmas novice rowing, four rowers (Annie Taylor, Marianne O’Connor, Sarah Edwards and Marie Becker), one trusty cox (Joe) and our coach Caroline spent numerous sessions on the river in darkness, to prepare for Autumn 4s. Despite the fact that none of us could really see what exactly we were doing half of the time and for all we know people could have been rowing backwards, on the day everything luckily came together.
So on Sunday the 15th of November, we embarked on a day of racing. With our kit being coordinated down to the red ribbon in our hair, we undoubtedly brought some form of ninja-esque intimidation to the river as we warmed up (please see photo for evidence). Moreover, as Annie pointed out, it has been scientifically proven that crews wearing visors go faster and this was only confirmed in our first race against Somerville. Hence, even though they put up more of a fight than expected and our kit matched theirs to the extent that we may as well have been from the same college, the visor speed and Joe’s incredible capacity to steer through the 20mph gusts of wind, saw us crossing the finish line a comfortable 2 lengths ahead.
Next, we were to meet Univ B in the semi-final, a crew that had beaten us by a significant margin in IWL and just defeated our neighbours GTC in the previous round. As we lined up on the start line and passed high-fives down the boat, we prepared for the race that was undoubtedly our best one of the day. Having made up for their advantage on the stagger before the end of Greenbanks, we pushed around the corner to our advantage, flying past wall of Univ supporters on the bank, who drowned out the sound of Caroline’s voice and if anything only encouraged us to go faster and to widen the gap between us. By the end of Boathouse Island, it seemed like Univ had just decided to give up, rowing at what could at most have been Rate 24, allowing us to comfortably wind it down for the finish line.
Having overcome this hurdle, we knew that Univ A was the next and that it would inevitably be a tough race (it’s incomprehensible how any club has enough people capable of rowing to make up two 4s at this stage…). With a very short break in between races, we, set off on our speedy start and settled into a strong rhythm on Greenbanks. Sadly Univ A, unlike the others, appears to have understood that we would put in a push around the corner at the bottom of Boathouse Island and did the same, with us thereby sadly failing to use it for our advantage. The support from the side for Univ seems to have doubled between the two races, but we did not let that put us off and refused to let them push ahead any further, holding them about a length and a half ahead. Finally, inspired by Joe’s calls of ‘nothing left’ and ‘we go together, we go now’, we wound it up for a final push towards the finish line, managing to gain overlap as we crossed it. Irrespective of the fact that we lost in the final, we could not have been happier with our performance throughout the day and especially in that last race, refusing to give up against a much more experienced opposition. Overall, it was a valiant effort by everyone and per Joe’s new favourite call, we certainly didn’t let ourselves be bullied by the wind. Making it to the final was more than we could have ever hoped for and it is hopefully an indication of a promising year of Women’s Rowing at Hertford that lies ahead. Special thanks to Caroline and Joe for all the hard work they put into preparing us for this event and to Henry Penrose for taking on the job of Marshalling in what can only be described as horrendous conditions.
Marie B. (Women’s Captain)