M1 trained throughout Easter Term with only one target in mind: to bump Pembroke II. Delays earlier in the day meant there was no time to run through our usual race warm-up. We arrived at our station near Baitsbite Lock, with Pembroke ahead and Queens’ II, the sandwich boat, waiting behind. Nerves were high and we all knew that this was going to be a tough fight; we had to go out hard and fast if we had any chance of securing the bump. The four-minute canon: the visualization and double-checking our equipment. The one-minute gun: silence. Eight. Square. Six. Five. Relax. Breathe…GUN. With a strong start we were off. Coming under the Motorway Bridge, the choppy waters and the force of the outflow caused only a momentary startle before we refocused and pushed harder through the dirty water. Coming up to First Post Corner, Queens’ was already starting to drop off, losing steam, no doubt, because they had just rowed over in the division below. Coming out of Grassy, we gained a whistle on Pembroke, but they held us at a length all the way up the Plough Reach. Steadily gaining now, and with a tight corner on Ditton, our confidence was boosted with the second whistle. Our coach, Silvia Breu’s immediate call for a move, code-named Spitfire, signaled an alarm – a potential for Pembroke to bump before we did. “Load and swing, load and swing,” called Katie Cudmore, our intrepid cox – knowing the fate of our Bumps campaign laid in this moment, we dug in with max pressure. Three whistles, and then a stern “Hold it up!” from Silvia. What happened? Did we get the bump? There seemed to be disagreement and confusion on the bank, and we were directed to hold at the P&E. Utterly exhausted, we were calmed down by David Winch, our other coach, and Simeon Wentzel, our steadfast bank party, as Silvia and the umpires sorted a plan. The verdict came down. We had been in a four boat sandwich situation into the Reach. We were closing on Pembroke, Pembroke were on First and Third Trinity II’s heels, and FaT were going strong after Clare II. FaT bumped Clare, Pembroke didn’t manage to steer around, and, to avoid certain carnage, we ended our pursuit just short of the bump. The race was so close, that thankfully Silvia secured a re-row for us.
Sidney and Pembroke in an epic one-on-one battle. Tired but determined, we spun and headed back past the crowds, up to the head of Division 1 where we turned around and waited at Station 2 (the highest Sidney I has ever been in Bumps!). With “Attention, GO!” we were off and moving fast. One whistle from Silvia coming out of First Post. Two whistles past the Plough. A third, and then continuous whistles from David into Ditton Corner. Overlap, overlap, “give it everything boys!” from Katie – harder and harder through the Spitfire call – BUMP! Over-the-moon with a sense of accomplishment, M1 won its hard-earned greenery on a long Day 1.
Despite the initial euphoria of having bumped Pembroke, Clare II—an arch-nemesis of the Sidney first boat—was going to be another tough fight on Day 2, and with a strong Pembroke crew chasing us with a revenge bump in mind, this was no time to get cocky. Our start was stronger, and with a slightly better starting position, Katie was able to follow an even tighter racing line around the first bend. We were gradually gaining on Clare, getting our first whistle on them around First Post. Two whistles up the Gut. With an insanely tight corner around Grassy, we flew out with a Spitfire, charging towards Clare. Three whistles followed immediately by continuous, and, to the cheering crowds on both sides of the bank, we bumped Clare right before the Plough. Special thanks to Camille Lardy, who was with us on the bank through Saturday.
Day 3 was a tricky one. Running the numbers in our heads, we knew we were faster than Darwin I ahead of us, and we had shown the day before that Clare chasing us could be held off. But what if we let hubris get to our heads? How could we ever live with ourselves if we underestimated our competition or didn’t push as hard as we could because we were overconfident? As Silvia, David, and Katie assured us, we needed to focus and go all out again. This was no time to slack off. This fight mattered just as much as the rest of them, and we needed to treat it like it was the only race that meant anything. Our practice starts were powerful and sharp, and we were ready. By the end of our start sequence, we already had a whistle on Darwin. Partly at the excited determination of our 7 Man, Sam Wilson—our resident Goldie rower—we strode the monumental jump from rate 42 to rate 40 and went all out. Just after the outflow, in under 90 seconds, we had our third bump.
This was it. Day 4 against First and Third Trinity II – a solid crew. Trying not to get the prospects of earning four bumps in our heads, we were bracing for a long, hard race. If we were lucky enough to get the bump, none of us expected anything to come close to happening until we were on the Reach. The focus in the moments before the race was intense. Silvia and David helped calm us down, making sure the past three days were out of the picture and that we simply drew our attention to the fight that was before us. Our starts and our rowing improved over the first three days, and Day 4 was no exception. On it from the cannon, we moved quickly on FaT, knowing everything was on the line. One whistle halfway towards First Post. Then, rapidly, two, three, continuous whistles and then there was a deafening thud and a call to hold it up on First Post. “Two and Four, take a tap,” Katie called. Our bank party pulled us in. Silence. It seemed like an eternity before Silvia turned to us with arms raised and thunderously yelled “YES!!!!!” The crew exploded! The fourth bump! BLADES! Our 5 Man, Zachary Lande, stood up victoriously, and we all celebrated in our own way, with tears, with laughter, and with shouts of exuberance. David and Silvia showered us with Champagne and we all took turns proudly waving the SSBC flag as we donned our greenery for the fourth time that week.
Feeling on top of the world, we started our triumphant row home, past cheering crowds and groups of friends and alumni singing the Boat Club song at the top of their lungs, past the thunderous commotion at the Plough, and past the applauding parties and stationary crews along the Reach. We were greeted at the boathouse with the song once again, and the applause and congratulations by our dear friends in W1 and M2.
With the blur of BCD, the garden party, and Downing Tribal, it took a few days to sink in. We did it. Blades. History. With this special constellation of crew members and coaches, we were lucky enough to leave our mark forever on SSBC. No chasing crew gained a single whistle on us, and we rowed our best. We owe thanks to our coaches, Silvia and David, who never gave up on us, who pushed us endlessly, and who taught us to believe in ourselves and in the crew. Together, we did it.
Next Mays we’re chasing Jesus II. And the fight starts now. From here on out, it’s only onward and upward.