TorpEights 2021: M1 Race Reports

M1 TorpEights Crew: Cox: Bridget Donaldson, Stroke: Antonis Dim, 7: Peter Todd, 6: Adam Teece, 5: Isaac Hilsley, 4: Dominik Koller, 3: Johannes Messner, 2: Rafee Ahmed, Bow: Henrik Tiemroth

Isaac Hilsley, M1 five seat: “The COVID- disrupted year of rowing had left the men’s squad in a rather unfortunate and exceptional position- lacking seniors, experience, and numbers. In fact, our very entry into Summer Torpids was called into question at least a few times- but, a week before the event, Graham pulled together a scratch crew of eight to compete in the races in the spirit of competition (unlike a few of our competitors) …

Unlike the norm for an M1, there were many novice oarsmen in the boat (myself included), and for many, this was their first ever taste of racing- we were really being thrown in at the deep end! We were left with just five days to move from a shaky, unbalanced eight to a boat capable of competing in Div1 of college rowing. Somehow, we managed to improve our technique, bring our rate up from 20 to 30 and learn racing starts within our very limited time window together. As the racing week approached, we looked tentatively ahead with a mix of nervous excitement, and a desire to not get spoons…

Nobody really knew what to expect from our first race- we had Keble behind us, the sandwich boat between divisions one and two, but we had no idea of the standard of other crews after their similarly strange year of highly disrupted rowing. Nothing could have possibly prepared me for the nerves, exhilaration and ecstasy of my first race. We had a very shaky start, with the gun going off far earlier than it was meant to, surprising our crew, who took a few seconds to realise that the race had got underway! Keble had a few seconds on us straight out of the blocks and were gaining rapidly. They were down to just half a boat length almost instantly; although inexperienced, we had plenty of resolve and were forced to dig deep from the outset. We held Keble off for a few minutes of excruciating lung-and-leg-burning rowing, but the inevitable bump sounded out as we approached the gut. The rate (and our spirits) came down, and we hobbled the rest of the course after a fiery introduction to college rowing.

The rest of our campaign is history. Although, despite our best efforts, we were unfortunate enough to get spoons, I truly believe that our campaign was a huge success. We had started as an unbalanced crew which had pretty much never rowed together, but we had finished as a much more polished squad, capable of some much cleaner rowing thanks to our trial by fire in Summer torpids. I will personally remember racing as being the undisputed highlight of my first year at Oxford. There was something intangible about being in that boat which totally hooked me, and the rest of the crew, and we had a brilliant week despite the result.

The campaign ended with Graham delivering a brilliant speech, summing up his optimism for the future. Trust that the M1 will be back with a vengeance to tear up the ISIS next year… FTD

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