Report: Emma Sprints 2022

Emma sprints regatta was a head-to-head race primarily aimed at novices. The crews race 500m down the reach and it is customary to dress up in outfits for this head-to-head race. This year Sidney had a women’s and men’s novice crew compete in the regatta.


Leading up to Emma Sprints, both men’s novice boats had progressed through novice term at equal rates, meaning that there was no real “NM1” or “NM2”. This meant that when Emma Sprints (inevitably) announced that they were oversubscribed, one boat had to be called NM1. Thanks to Overvoorde 2-seat, spending a bit of his own money when none of the other novices did on a very convincing “Where’s Wally” costume (which received many compliments on race day), Overvoorde were entered into Emma Sprints. 

The day started off well with the crew arriving confident, if not a little bit nervous at the prospect of a first race. A quick set of footplate adjustments and then a warmup consisting of decent ‘chat’, particularly focussing on Anglo-American similarities and differences with coach, Jonah, made sure the guys were physically and mentally prepared for the task that lay ahead of them. As the crew got into Dot, we noticed our 1st found opponents, Fitz NM1 trundling by at low rate.

Moving up to the start line now, calls from cox, Sampath, for heads and eyes in the boat and to focus on the man in front relaxed the crew. The starting Marshall called “Attention” without a loud speaker, but then the expected “go” simply never came. Instead, he paused for what felt like 10 seconds and whispered “go” into his mic. In fact, his “go” was so quiet that neither crew nor cox did anything. It was only when Jonah (who was right next to the Marshall) yelled “DRAW” that both crews simultaneously started moving. The first draw was very powerful; the boys had practised their race starts a fair bit and as such, the first recovery was relatively relaxed too. However, after the second call of “draw” from the cox, 7-seat, Zaif’s, legs were both momentarily hanging out of one side of the boat with his head almost out of the opposite side. Indeed, Jonah heard the race Marshall murmuring under his breath “ejector crab”. However, much to his credit, Zaif used his core strength to remain inside the boat while everyone else was doing builds, and with some help from 6-seat, Elliott, was able to recover the crab and eventually get strapped back in.

It would turn out that the shoes in 7-seat were just too large for him but nevertheless, once he had recovered, Zaif began to row normally again and did a phenomenal job of staying in time with Stroke, Ben. After all of the crab recovery work from 6 and 7 seats had been completed, Fitz were about a length up on Sidney, having accelerated up to race speed. But with stern four now rowing back in time with each other, the guys (with likely unreal volumes of adrenaline coursing through their veins), managed to quickly bring that down to half a length. Indeed, it looked like we were about to overtake when all of a sudden their 6-seat crabbed pretty horrifically. Since both crews had now suffered bad crabs the boats seemed to be on even pegging until only 5 seconds later when their bowman caught a rather ‘healthy’ crab. Naturally this led cox, Sampath to excitably scream “we’ve got them boys!” down the mic but (to his own surprise) the focus didn’t drop and the rowing from Sidney only became cleaner. Fitz never quite came back from their bow crab and it is unknown as to whether their bow managed to recover as Sidney left them behind quite quickly after that incident.

This good first win left the guys feeling pretty confident. We pulled in temporarily and Jonah fed the crew with some Haribos. After some time and questionable chat had passed, we were told that our next opponents would be Pembroke NM1. Pushing off, the guys rowed back around Ditton corner with near perfect balance at rate 16 (it was truly a sight for a novice boat) and prepared to face Pembroke. Everyone felt confident after the last win and they were all ready to go all out for 500m. We had believed that 7-seat Zaif’s crab was just a one off since he was able to row very well after recovering the crab. However, the start of this second race would fatally come to prove that presumption wrong.

Once again, after the second draw or so, 7-seat Zaif crabbed, and again he and 6-seat, Elliott tried to quickly recover. But this time something was wrong. Really badly wrong. Zaif and Elliott recovered the crab, only to crab again 4 times in the space of under 10 seconds. Cox, Sampath, could both see and hear a laugh of simultaneous unadulterated joy and fear in 6-seat’s face which was later confirmed by his only contribution to the race debrief – “I just thought the second race was brilliant”. It soon became clear that something was wrong with Zaif’s seat itself as he started rowing arms and bodies only at rate 100. At this stage Pembroke NM1 were only about a length up (only, given the many many quick crabs that had occurred), however 7-seat’s inventive (yet unsustainable) rate 100 half rowing was the signal for cox to drop out stern pair, effectively conceding the race with a crew of 6 vs a crew of 8.

With that being said, bow 6 still ploughed on very hard and surprisingly the Pembroke boat didn’t open up that big of a gap on the reach, perhaps indicating that it would have been a good contest without the seat malfunction. Or it could have just been resident tank, Josh Poon (bow seat), deciding to use his back during the stroke on top of everything else. I guess we’ll never know. Only laughter could be heard on the row home with 3 and 5-seats, Tahsinul and AP, unable to contain their sheer  delight at the hilarity of the events of the day, particularly seeing Zaif holding up his broken seat like a trophy in the air. Upon returning to the boathouse seats were fixed, mince pies were ate and 4-seat Manuel did his very best to attempt to throw 5-seat, AP into the river for looking outside of the boat during the piece (a punishment to such a crime that the crew had agreed upon), but alas he was unsuccessful. A fun day out for all, and a very good piece (wahey) of rowing, we’re excited to see what Overvoorde bring to Fairbairns.


Emma sprints was an exciting time for NW1: the novices first race and coincidentally also their first week of rowing all eights. Outfits inspired by Noah’s ark they lined up next to Magdalene NW1 ready to bring the fight. The whistle was blown and the race commenced with what can only be described as a rather hectic race start for Sidney NW1. However, not to fret, with some incredible coxing from Emily and determination from all 8 rowers they pushed through their opponents and into the lead at around 100m into the 500m race. They maintained this lead until suddenly with 100m to go a quite serious crab was caught and despite putting down some insane power once recovered it wasn’t quite enough and Magdalene NW1 won the race. Although the first race wasn’t quite the win they had hoped for the crew was not demotivated and started focusing on their next race against Peterhouse NW1. Sadly not much improved from the first race start and the second race start was potentially more hectic. To add to this there was blade clashing between the two crews and in response the crew was directed away from Petehouse which unfortunately ended with them crashing into the bank. However, once they were pushed off again the crew set off in full force and really came together to chased Peterhouse all the way to the finish – a great sign for the races to come!