TorpEights 2021: W2 Race Reports

W1 DAY 1- 08/06/21

Niamh, W2: “It’s the first day of racing and we are all feeling nervous yet extremely excited to get going.  Having not trained much together as a crew and with many of us never having rowed before this term, we are unsure what to expect from the elusive Oxford Torpids. As we wait impatiently to push off from the raft, our coach Jake and Cox Fin are missing as they are rowing in the Benet’s M1. Our anticipation grows as the time of our race draws nearer and nearer. They arrive entertainingly by punt having bumped in their division. We push off and head swiftly to our bung line. With the bellowing boom of a canon, the race is underway, and I feel the boat move underneath me. We start strong and hold off Catz as we move swiftly towards Donnington Bridge. However, they manage to bump us in the gut just after the bridge. Despite this, we continue to work together as a crew and attempt to produce our smoothest rowing yet. After crossing the finish, we all feel exhausted yet filled with pride at having completed our first day of Torpids!”

W1 DAY 2- 09/06/21

Richmond, W2: “My second ever day of racing, and I think I was more nervous this time around, knowing what was about to happen and wanting to outdo my past performance. What I really love about rowing, though, is it’s truly a team sport. Every triumph and failure is a team effort. Summer 8s has pounded that point home! It’s so addictive and validating to track our progress, to feel us improve outing after outing. We were bumped by LMH but managed to hold them off until the Gut. This was far more than we were expecting, as LMH had 4 Blues rowers to their name. We gained on the boat ahead and fended off the boat chasing, keeping a strong pace until the finish. When we race, we do it for us: most of us were novices at the start of this term, so seeing how far we’ve come and finding new places to improve is enough of a reward for us.”

W1 DAY 3- 10/06/21

Teresa, W2:

It is day three of racing. Women’s division six, bung line four. The one-minute canon had gone. Deep breath. Sit up…

On the way to the boathouse today, I could not help but think to myself in pity about the increased distance we would have to row. My legs were tired. My back aching. My soul was not loving being bumped every day. But the routine of preparing for the race quickly drew my mind to more important things: Today was going to be a great day. Blades out, sunscreen applied, antlers fastened. Ombline lovingly applied a bright red lipstick to my cheeks in two expert strokes. War paint on. We were ready.

We zip through a warm-up session with some starts. Somehow, after what felt like hours and seconds at the same time. I find myself tucked into the wall by the start, flinching as the one-minute canon goes. It is much louder on bung line four than it was on bung line two.

Jake starts counting down from twenty. This is it. Another deep breath. Come forward. Sit up! My eyes find Tiril’s white-blonde strand of hair that weaves its way through her braid. It reminds me of a coil. The coil I am about to become. TEN, NINE, EIGHT… I square my blade and wiggle my butt to find the perfect placement. My body tenses. “Deep breath, Teresa, you got this.” That is the last thing that goes through my mind.

BOOM. I unfurl. My legs use the foot plate as an anchor and diving board simultaneously. My training takes over; I transfer the power, push the water, follow Ombline, and give it my all. No thinking, just existing in a place of pure agony and bliss. In… there… in… there… Fintan is calling winding strokes, I have lost myself completely in the action. The movement, the pain, in… there… in… there… WAIT.

Something is different. Did he just say, “We’re gaining”? I am momentarily confused. Extra adrenaline floods my system. There is no time for wondering, back to the rhythm. “They conceded!” I am a body, doing my job. I shake off the urge to wonder what is happening. In… there… in… there… I feel the boat veering to the side opposite the towpath, into the middle of the stream. This gets my attention. I think to myself “Hold the racing line, Fin, what are you doing?!” We dip into the shadow of Donnington bridge, as I faintly hear Ombline’s voice through the speaker, and Fintan’s response: “We bumped Catz”. My world goes blank.

It is at this moment that I notice the mayhem unfolding around us. As my body releases a scream of purest exhilaration, a cathartic sound of pleasure and disbelief, my eyes take in the sight:

Catz is sitting in the bushed by the towpath, with Univ pushing up against them from the middle of the stream. As Magdalen emerges from beneath the bridge, they aim to pass Univ and bump Catz. It is at this moment that Catz tries to pull away from between Univ and the riverbank. As the felines try to dislodge themselves, they point their boat into the middle of the stream and start rowing on. Catz collide with Magdalen, who are rowing past at full steam. Displaced by the impact, Magdalen veer to the side of the river opposite the tow path, heading straight for us. Because the entire river is now blocked with boats, the St. Peters and Christ Church crews coming up behind Magdalen try to outmanoeuvre the chaos by following Magdalen’s path. Magdalen misses us by mere inches, as they are unable to hold it hard because St. Peters is crashing into them from behind, while Christ Church nearly impales the St. Peter’s cox. A moment of worry passes, as everyone assesses that they and their crews are alright. A gap opens in the middle of the river, and the Teddy Hall crew rows by, blissfully unperturbed by the chaos. Catz finally manage to point themselves in the right direction and row off, we cheer them on. I sit and take in the picture, feel the sportsmanship and sense of community. A part of me can’t help but think that I have been a part of an epic Bumps moment.

The umpire comes and asks us: “Are you still in the race?”

No, sir, we bumped today.

Fin calls, “rowing on, all eight.”

I smile to myself, go to backstops, and think, “tomorrow will be a great day!”.”

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