May Bumps 2019, Day 1: A mixed bag

It has been a day of ups and downs for Sidney, this first day of the 2019 May Bumps. Both women’s crews maintained their position, W1 rowing over with conviction and W2 receiving a technical row-over due to carnage earlier in the division when bumping crews failed to clear the way. M2 got the first bump of the campaign for Sidney, bumping Girton II, whereas M1 were bumped by an explosive Pembroke II. Here are the individual reports from the boats:

W1: What happens when competition is fierce

How often do eight boats in the same division row over, including four of them in a line? Because that’s what happened in Women’s Division 2 today, and Sidney W1 was one of those four.

Despite the veil of rain pouring over Cambridge since the early afternoon, W1 arrived at the boat house in high spirits, feeling up and ready to kick off our 2019 May Bumps adventure. For three of us in the boat, this is our first May Bumps campaign, whereas other veterans (sat in Stroke and 4) are embarking on their fifth odyssey (tenth if you include Lent Bumps!). 

After a solid and balanced row down from the boat house, we reached our station in front of Selwyn and behind Murray Edwards. On the sound of the third deafening canon: DRAW, PUNCH, DRAW, and we’re off. Solid start. Our rating was above 40 in the builds and we settled into a nice rhythm on our cox Phyllis’ call to ‘accelerate’ at the finish. By the motorway bridge, our coach, Tim Newton, blew one whistle. Murray Edwards, a powerful crew that includes two blues, were quick to respond: by First Post, we were just outside half a length, and by Ditton Corner, they pulled away to two lengths. During the entire course, Selwyn remained at an unthreatening distance behind. The Reach seemed longer than ever as we kept relentlessly pushing (to Phyllis’ aggressive ‘LEEEGS’ calls), and between the railway bridge and the finish, our final build brought us back to station. Emptying our tank on the last stretch had helped us gain half a length on our fierce opponents, an impressive final effort despite it not producing the result we had hoped for.

Tomorrow it will be back to square one with the same four crews – Emmanuel II (our Lent Bumps bête noire), Murray Edwards, Sidney Sussex, Selwyn – in the same order. After changing our tactics during our post-race briefing, we feel confident about having another go at bumping tomorrow. Tonight, our muscles may be aching from the row-over, but with lots of stretching, sleep and carbs, we’ll be ready to face the challenge that awaits us tomorrow – one that will be, hopefully, shorter, but just as intense.

— Megan Macnaughton, 3-seat

M1: Force Majeure

M1 had a tough start to our May Bumps campaign. We knew beforehand that we were facing some eminent competition in the form of Caius II, ahead of us, and Pembroke II, chasing. We had a very good and reassuring warm-up, going down to Jesus lock in order to gain a few extra meters for all-eight rowing. Focus was definitely there, and the nerves were kept under control throughout. A 20-minute delay was waited out close to the railway bridge, as often happens in Bumps, but everybody in the crew was in the right mindset and the bad weather was slowly getting better.

Finally on station (11thin the division), we did our routinely visualisation and rock-over exercise and got ready. The one-minute gun went off, we got ready, Tim Rhodes pushed us out with all the confidence and routine in the world, we came to front–stops; and the cannon signalling the start thundered. Our start was good and controlled, and we were able to keep our distance to Pembroke II for the first few strokes. However, once the starting sequence was over, the difference in aggression from the beginning between the crews became apparent. Pembroke rapidly reduced the distance, and we were caught a hundred metres or so after the Motorway Bridge.

Even though being bumped is never a great experience, the crew took it well. Pembroke II are undoubtedly looking strong this year, but M1 is looking forward to testing their endurance tomorrow, in what promises to be a longer race than today.

— Tor Svenungsson, 5-seat

W2: A lot more to give

It was a first Bumps experience for many of the W2 rowers today and as always Bumps delivered the unexpected. We warmed up with our signature slap catches to sharpen up. As we approached the P&E for marshaling, Lauren in 7 likened the loud claps of the blades on the water to the equivalent of our Haka chant to intimidate other crews. We were chasing Fitz W2, who had posted a fast time at Champs Eights earlier this term. However, our crew had improved significantly over the last few weeks and we knew we could provide the power needed to take them on.

On the canon’s boom, our start sequence of draws, winds and a power 10 got us up to rate 38 and we strode to our race pace of 32. The boat felt light as we kept our catches sharp and powerful. Stern 4 pushed us into first post corner and Hannah and Alice in 2 and 4 got us round the bend tightly.

Gaining on the speedy Fitz crew ahead we were unexpectedly called to hold it up by our bank party. It appeared the bump on St Catz by Queens had not cleared. After deliberation by the umpires we were awarded the technical row over and told to row home. While our race ended quickly, we could take a lot of positives from the race today. In the debrief, we agreed we had a lot more energy and power to give which bodes well for racing over the next few days!

— Joscelyn Miller, 6-seat

M2: A stride that never was

1 minute 45 seconds in and the bank party is screaming at Sidney M2 to hold it up. After the cox’s clear instructions we pulled in just before first post. We had done it. A clinical bump on Day 1 of Mays. Arguably one of the most inexperienced second boats that Sidney has entered – with our only Bumps experience coming from our cox, who has only rowed in it, and our 7-seat, who has only coxed it – there was an inevitable air of nervousness when we met at the boathouse. However, once we were in the boat and in the bubble, we rowed like we had done this many times before.

Although in truth, we had. Today’s positive result is a huge testament to the strong coaching team around us including two former Men’s Captains in Nathan Curry and Philip Saville, current Vice-Captain, Ieuan Best, and many other senior members of the club. Their help and training throughout this term meant we could approach the crucial first day with relaxed minds and a clear idea of what we needed to do to achieve our goal.

Of course, this was far from a perfect, or even our best, row. The adrenaline clearly got to us, with a strong but likely unsustainable start, a stride that never was and the odd air stroke. Yet, we held it together better than the crews around us who, being in Division 4, could be expected to be in a similar situation. Our attention now turns to tomorrow, where we chase Anglia Ruskin University I from station 10. We go in with confidence but also very aware that we can row cleaner and the task is no easy one.

— Paavan Sawjani, 7-seat

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