Cambridge Autumn Regatta

I guess yesterday’s regatta over at Cambridge can best be described as “eventful”!

The day started badly. I was reversing into the boat compound to hitch up the trailer when there was a load “bang” and hissing. A quick inspection confirmed the worst – one of the bits of tubing that the gate bolts lock into had neatly punched a hole through the sidewall of my front off-side tyre.  After unloading the boot, we changed the wheel (small rant here about why do car manufacturers insist on putting these stupid space savers in – the main road wheel fits into the same place so it isn’t a space saver – more a cost saver I suspect), re-packed, hitched up and got away about half an hour late.

Stopped off at Star Club to pick up a couple of their boats and then headed off to Fen Ditton. As we arrived a bit late, it looked like all available space on the trailer park had gone. Anyhow, I got out and wandered around and found that there was huge areas of space left up nearer the marquee – second rant, why do people who arrive first not move up as far as they can? So, we parked up and started unloading and rigging boats.

The first race off was Kieran and John as a J16 2x. Despite an excursion (or two) into the bankthey pushed hard and were unlucky not to take the win. Next up was my first trip down the river, coxing the Men’s S4 4+. This was a hard looking tie against Broxbourne and so it proved. They took us off the start (how often have I written that line?) but the guys really pushed hard and gradually reeled them in before the second push got our noses in front, where we stayed. Not sure of the margin but it looked like between a half and a full length – a really good result.

Next up were the Elliot twins, rowing as singles for the first time. Both put in superb performances, not surprisingly losing their first ever singles races but both pushed their opponents hard (and stayed upright – more than many did during the day). Jordan did especially well, losing by just a canvas. This shows real potential for next season.

Following the junior girls came the junior boys, Kieran and John again in singles. Again, both lost but to some very high grade opposition.

By this time the weather was starting to deteriorate and the grey clouds were gathering. Like a fool I thought it would pass and didn’t bother with my waterproof for when I coxed the next race, the Women’s S4 4+. The rain started just as we got down to the marshalling area. It then got heavier. And heavier, And heavier. This was compounded by having to wait for a cabin cruiser to dawdle up the river and then wait for the consequent traffic jam to clear. All in all, we sat in the torrential downpour for around half an hour. Even trying to shelter under the bridge was a big mistake – being a rail bridge it isn’t solid and just concentrates the rain into bigger drops! By the time we got to the start, water was actually sloshing around in the boat and I’d put on significant weight by having a drenched hoodie.

The race was against Cambridge 99 (the eventual winners) and was a pretty tough one. Again, beaten off the start (this was particularly unpleasant for the cox – as we pushed off the stake boat, the water surged back and I wound up sitting in an inch deep puddle of water) we held on to them all the way down and did pull back a little in one push but that early lead was the difference between the crews.

Our next crew was the twins, this time together in a double. Again, they lost but again a really strong performance, pushing their opponents all the way to the line. This was the last junior crew out but very pleasing to see the number and quality of the crews. This is starting to get MKRC Juniors noticed on the race circuit as well, a good development for the club.

Having dried out (a bit, anyway) it was time for a soggy cox to get back in the boat, this time for the Men’s second round, against Cantabs. A better (more relaxed guys!) start saw us pretty well level with them, they matched our first push but the second one by our crew was decisive, opening up a length’s lead. We then pushed away from them and ran out comfortable winners – next to the final, not bad for a crew of three novices, with only Will having any points.

Finally, having coxed three times and got half drowned in the rain, it was my turn to actually race!!!! A real first this one as it was a new crew (Mixed S4) and the first time I’d stroked a boat in a race. The race was a mixed bag – when we got it together it was very powerful and we could feel the boat surge but our lack of practice showed too often, with each of us catching a crab at some point. Still, it was (kind of) fun despite losing by a good couple of lengths. Thanks to Clarissa, who’d come along just to watch but wound up coxing us.

We then had a couple of hours to kill to the next race, the eagerly awaited final for the Men’s crew. By now the wather had brightened up considerably and it was a quite nice, warm and sunny day. However, come time to boat, the clouds gathered again and I was anticipating another thorough drenching. Worse was to come though; as the guys carried the boat down to the boating area there was a tremendous flash of lightning, followed rapidly by a deafening clap of thunder. Within minutes the rain came and made the morning’s fall look like a light shower.

By now, most competitors, officials and spectators were huddled in the marquee, with the last few crews who’d already got to the start coming back as fast as possible. We waited for the storm to pass, but every time that the organisers attempted to get crews back on the water, there was almost immediately another lightning flash and the rain intensified. Finally, after around half an hour of this, with no sign of it clearing, the organisers came to the inevitable conclusion that there was not enough time to finish racing before dark, even if the storm blew over. All credit to the Cambridge 99 Chairman who braved the storm and the crowd to come into the marquee to break the horrible news that the regatta had to be abandoned.

A very frustrating decision but absolutely the right one.

A real pity for the Men’s crew this, as they missed the chance of their final and the tantalisingly close chance to pot and get points – for three of them de-novicing into the bargain. Also a pain for Steve and Pierre who’d turned up for the S3 4x only to find the race cancelled. We were really looking forward to this one as it would have been a replay of our win earlier in the season against Rob Roy.

A quick pack up was then followed by the fun of getting off the field. By now this was a mudbath and I really didn’t think I’d make it with my poor Saab – especially with a skinny space saver on the front! However, with some willing manpower pushing as well, we slipped and slid our way out. I’m not sure how some of the other clubs would have fared as I’d managed to churn up the field pretty well on the way out.

All in all, a pretty good day albeit with a frustrating end, especially for the Men’s crew. Still they know now what they can do and sets them up for next season.

By the way – I managed to leave my camera behind (not that I had much time for taking photos though) so if anyone has any shots from the day that they don’t mind sharing, can they let me have them? I’ll then post them on the MKRC Photo Site. Thanks

Now to the Head Season – shudder…..


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