Hertford-Only Novice W Boat
Wittily recounted by Frances Hand – MCR
In the lead up to race day, safe to say the nerves were high. Not only was this my 5th week ever of rowing, but we had also not had the opportunity to race as a complete team before competing. However, I was also excited to have the opportunity to complete on behalf of Hertford.
As I cycled down to the Hertford Boat House for the start of Day 1, the River Isis had a new lease of life. As I passed by each College team , there was a palpable sense of anticipation for what was about to come. However, despite the efforts of rival colleges to create a cohesive team atmosphere, through matching t-shirts or even the odd piece of tinsel, no one came close to Hertford. Women’s Captain Jemima pulled out all the stops, not only organising for war paint in the form of bright red lipstick but also through an admirable collection of antlers. Keeping with the OxMas theme, there was a mix of both regular and sparkly, holly covered ones. These were then divided between stroke and bow pairs in alternating fashion so as to spread the message of both “Christmas Cheer” and “Fear the Deer”. Cox Carlo was also looking the part, decked out in a beige jumpsuit and deer stalker hat. As we tapped up to the start line, antlers firmly taped to our heads, I knew I was ready to do Hertford proud.
Our first race was against New College B, a formidable opponent. We already knew that they had grasped the ‘mosquito’ technique, and had had more tank time than us…but we do not scare easily. In possibly one of the greatest race starts I have ever experienced, we set out with a strong lead. However due to some near ‘crab’ misses and a broken seat midway through the race we began to lose momentum. New College WB beat us this time and whilst we cheered for them heartedly we did also blame their victory on the drag caused by our antlers.
On Day 2, the pressure was off a little bit. We were no longer racing newbies. Captain Jake, who was potentially covering more miles that the entire regatta combined, was doing a heroic effort to support both Hertford and his own college, St. Benet’s Hall, who rather inconveniently are stationed exactly opposite Hertford over the other side of the Isis. However, this did come with an added bonus, as we had the opportunity to see a real life monk, who was able to supply us with that a little bit of extra luck. Alongside Brother Beed, MCR President Teresa was also cheering us on from the side-lines, meaning the pressure was on to show her how strong Hertford could be. This time, we altered the antler tactic, wearing them for our procession up to the start line, but then taking them off when it got to crunch time. That way our opponents, Lady Margaret Hall, knew we meant business.
After another fantastic racing start, by midway through the race, spurred on by the cheers of our adorning fans, Hertford pulled ahead. In the final push, we picked up the pace and crossed the line half a length in front of LMH. The atmosphere was electric as we threw our hands in the air, just in time to be caught in action by the resident photographers. After a three cheers for LMH and some quality snacks supplied by Cox Carlo, we rowed on back to HCBC in a final slow victory lap. Today had been a good day.
Day 3 rolls around and, due to the potential storms coming on Saturday, the final day of racing. Yet as tired as we were, and with the prospect of 5 additional races that day, the atmosphere remained high, with Christmas music blasting from the boathouse. Cox Carlo, who we now believed must simply have an entire wardrobe of beige jumpsuits, had resorted to the ‘stick and carrot’ method by offering to reward either us or Lincoln with the bag of M&Ms, depending on who won the race.
Antlers on, game faces ready, we set off again. We had a few difficulties with our line at the start of the race, yet we did not fall into the classic novice regatta trap of crashing into the side. Admittedly, this did slow us down and whilst the team pushed on bravely, we narrowly lost out to Lincoln. However, one good thing that came out of that race was that Lincoln confessed that they had been inspired by our outfits to adorn their own festive decorations. So even if we are not the fastest boat on the Isis, we are still the undeniable trend setters.
Overall, my first experience of racing has been a blast! Everyone agreed that the atmosphere of the Hertford Boat Club was unmatchable and it was so nice for me to be able to meet a few more members of the Hertford community. It is hard to decide which aspect of my experience I am most proud of, finishing in the top half of all teams competing, or the sheer amount of OxRows we received from jealous rivals, complementing our outfits, atmosphere and rowing capabilities. Overall, I have loved my time as part of the HCBC so far and cannot wait to row again in Hilary!I would like to end with a short poem:
Christ Church Regatta, the nerves were high,
But before we knew it, the races flashed by,
Overall, it has been fun,
To look back now the racing’s done,
And in the end, I need not fear,
For the only fear, is of the Deer.
 For any Alumni who do not know what an OxRow is, this is an anonymous Facebook confession page, where other colleges can comment on funny, impressive or embarrassing things that have happened within the Oxford Rowing Community. It is highly entertaining and I would recommend a quick perusal if you are willing to lose a few hours being stuck in a scrolling worm hole.
Joint Hertford-Benet’s Novice W Boat
Dramatically retold by Vicky
When people asked me how the day 1 race went, I’d answer, “We lost, but at least we looked good doing it.” And it was true. In the video, you could see us rowing gracefully with our oars in sync – bandanas on our heads, star stickers on our faces, shirts color-coordinated to our respective colleges. And I was pleased! To me, the regatta wasn’t about winning, but about enjoying my first race experience with an awesome team.
Cut to day 2. Such a hectic morning. Two friends from home were visiting, and just as I watched their train pull into the station, I realized I’d forgotten my BOD card in my North Oxford house – a solid 25-minute journey from the boathouse. I gave a heads up to the Benet’s captain Amina about my mishap. I gave the speediest tour to my friends, then hopped on my bike to start the sprint home. I arrived to the LMH boathouse 30 minutes late, just as the girls were finishing their warm-up. Warm up? I was already dripping in sweat.
Luckily, we still had a few minutes of buffer time, so I whipped out the gold star stickers and plastered them over my teammates’ cheeks, just as we’d done for Day 1. Then, time to get the boat out. We pushed off. As we waited on the river for Catz to arrive, we did the Benet’s pre-race ritual: bumping elbows, one at a time, to pass good luck from bow to stroke. Unlike the day 1 race, when we had a few minutes to mentally prep at the start line, 30 seconds after we got in position, I heard the call “Attention, GO!” And we were off. I could hear Hatty, our cox, shouting the rhythm of the race start. I could see from the corner of my eye that Catz was already ahead of us, and soon, a full boat ahead.
It’s funny. The race is just a few short minutes, a burst of adrenaline while trying to focus on form and power and rhythm and the calls of the cox. And yet, maybe because I’d seen that we were so far behind, I remember my mind wandering with fully-formed thoughts: Wow, I’m starving. Ugh, my arms are tired, so maybe I’m doing it wrong because it’s supposed to be in my legs. The river looks beautiful with the sun on it.
Then, I heard Hatty shout: “We’re ahead!” Cue the thought, Oh my God we might actually win this. Sharp focus on the back of Juliet’s head. Legs, body, arms; arms, body, legs. Feather, square, feather, square. Power in the legs. Don’t overthink or you might lose the rhythm. Water splashing on my legs and arms. Don’t you dare get tired. You’ve got this. Keep going.
We burst through the end of the race, beating Catz by three-quarters of a boat. We hip hip hoorayed and whooped as we turned the boat around. On shore, our college mates and my visiting friends were waiting with big smiles and cheers.
I was fine with telling people about our loss on day 1. But, when people asked me about the day 2 race, it felt so great to answer them: “We won.”