With exams finally over, Henley preparations were in full swing for both the men and the women’s squads. The first post-exams regatta on the schedule was to take place in reading in a head-to-head situation.
This year the men’s squad were able to assemble three boats together consisting of two eights and a 4 which would race on both days. For the men this was the first time that the crews would be racing together on their route to Henley Royal qualifiers which will take place in two weeks.
This year the men’s top boat was to be an VIII which would start the Saturday of Reading off at 10am against Latymer Upper School. After what has been a good year the lads were high of expectations and were hoping to win the IM2 8+ category. Their first race turned out to be the toughest one. With the Manchester eight on the inside lane they were given the advantage of being ahead on the start due to the stagger. After a long drive down south from Manchester the night before this was a welcome feeling which helped ease nerves. Once the race had started the first bend was in favour of our crew allowing our VIII to achieve a lead of about a length and a half. As Emma, the cox, rightly pointed out the advantage of the bend was shortlived, Latymer would be able to make some ground when it came to the second bend. As predicted Latymer did manage to claw some of the distance back however they only ever took half a length out of the Manchester crew now in full stride and moving well together. With about 400m left Latymer were going for it, however Manchester responded and finished strongly and won by a margin of one length… The second round awaited the boys!
In the second round Bristol University were waiting having gotten a bye in the first round. Whilst this proved to be a fairly comfortable race for our 1st VIII, winning by a margin of at least two lengths, it was remembered at the end of the day as one of the crews best rows. The rhythm that they settled into was far too great for a Bristol crew that was only beaten by 0.2 seconds at Bucs in the championship category! A fair bit of progress considering this was the same distance as the Bucs time trial.
As against Bristol in the previous round, Twickenham rowing club struggled with the pace being set by our crew, leading to a victory of three lengths! The next round was the final, so far so good for our crew who had yet to be pushed all the way to the finish line!
What was the penultimate race of the day and after a long day of racing for the boys it was now 7pm and they were up against the University College London Boat club. There was a familiar face in the coxing seat of the UCL crew with Marion rocking up against her former University. This race for some members of the MUBC crew would potentially be the end of their Novice status! Whilst UCL battled until the halfway mark the Manchester crew were just to strong, again they hit their rhythm, which proved too much for Bristol and Twickenham before them, proved essential with the crew finishing the race with a two length victory! They were CHAMPIONS of IM2!
What followed this race involved a lot of swimming with the ‘tradition’ of throwing in the lads who finally lost their novice status being thrown in first only to be followed by the rest of the crew. The next big part of the day for our 1st VIII was by a collective effort to throw Emma as high as possible when she was thrown in. The day ended for our crew with the medal ceremony, Henley preparations had begun well!
As with the 1st VIII, the 2nd VIII and IV+ were also beginning their Henley adventure. For both crews this day proved to be a day for learning and looking forwards with both crews beaten in their respective categories ofIM3 8+ and Novice IV+. The IM3 8+ has proven to be a tough one as our Henley eight from 2013 will vouch for, as in the previous year the 2nd VII came up against a strong school in Cheltenham College. Our lads were beaten by about four lengths by a crew that looked to be their first boat and had been together for a while and uninterrupted by end of year exams at this point. The Novice 4+ suffered a similar experience being beaten by a length and half against Latymer Upper School’s Novices.
Having gotten home after the day of racing their was a logistical nightmare in the hands of Jack Roe(senior men’s captain), this being due to the points collected by our 1st VIII in their victory in IM2 8+. Due to this the crew had too many points for the category they were entered into the following day and with their not being an IM1 category this year and no space in the elite event (according to the umpires) some switching round was necessary. One of the problems was not putting too many points in the 2nd VII but taking away enough from the 1st VIII to keep them an IM2 crew. After much debate between Men’s captain and Performance captain; Jonah, Skelley and Jake were taken out of the 1st VIII and into 2nd VIII for Bennett, Whalley and Azzi.
The first Men’s crew to race on the Sunday was the 2nd VIII who were given a bye in the first round. Their first opponents were Latymer Upper Schools 2nd crew, as with the 1st VII the day before our crew were too good for Latymer and beat them with the same margin of one length. The 2nd round proved to be a challenge when our eight came up against University College Dublin. The UCD crew proved to be too strong for our 2nd VIII beating them by 2 lengths. Whilst the lads wanted to win this was progress on the previous day, having won a round the 2nd VIII was moving forwards!
In the build up to the 1st VIII’s race some drama was happening off the river, Southampton were refusing to race our crew because they were told we withdrew our crew. Despite Southampton’s best efforts the umpires came over thanks to our President, Oliver Whalley’s, persistent arguing. Having gotten the race to go ahead there were some sour feelings towards the Southampton University crew, this helping to pump up our boys in their attempt to win. This was a very close race which went down to the wire. Our 1st VIII had won by half a length, a great victory made all the more pleasurable due to the oppositions unsportsmanlike behavior before the race.
In the next round Bristol University awaited, the same crew as the previous day. Today wasn’t to be the day for our 1st VIII with the boys losing out by ¾ of a length.
What some dubbed as the main event of the weekend, the Novice single, which on the Sunday of Reading is a mind-boggling 1.1km was being raced by Jake who had doubled up in the VII. In the first round he came up against one of reading’s own scullers and despite Jake’s best efforts to capsize, by hitting a barge and almost going into the bank, he was able to win by a verdict of easily. It turns out checking the map before a sculling race is quite important, as is looking round, but what do you expect, it is novice singles after all. The Next round brought our sculler up against an athlete from Marlow, fortunately this time Jake was not in the lane closest to the bank which meant that was one thing less to worry about. This race again was proved to be pretty straightforward except for a close encounter with a barge moving in the opposite direction, this was met with some of the MUBC crowd criticising his steering so that the whole bank could hear. The final brought Jake up against a sculler from Cantabs, much to his surprise he managed to navigate the course without any close encounters this time and allowing him to get his third ‘easily’ verdict of the day.
In the wise words of David Bentham, the new novice men’s captain, Jake ‘Popped two cherries in one weekend.” Losing his sculling and rowing novice status.
Now onto a more serious sculling event with Sam entering elite singles and coming up against a sculler who beat him a couple of years ago in the first round. Having spoken to Sam he described the race as close…up until halfway, at which point he claims it was ‘easy’. As Jake did earlier Sam had also doubled up so there was a lot of jumping in and out for Sam and having lost in the VIII he was in an elite singles final straight afterwards. He had to pick himself up in order to win his second final of the day. Having bumped into him after the race going for our warm down he summed up the race in the exact same manner as the previous race… he was more annoyed at not having a real race in his single than the fact that he’d just won elite singles by a verdict of three lengths.
Victories of the weekend:
Saturday: IM2 8+
Sunday: Elite and Novice 1x