As the only SSBC men’s boat participating, M2 made its race debut on the rain-drizzled first Saturday of February. It was the Newnham Short Course race, and, according to coach Tim Schmalz, the optimal practice for the Getting On race and Lent Bumps.
In the lead-up to the race, most focus had been on technical issues and co-ordination. A team of all ex-novices, there was much to be done in that regard. Last outing before race day was, for that reason, purely technical: much waiting, much sitting the boat, low body temperatures. Hand heights were adjusted (for a few minutes), crabbing propensity was mitigated through earlier feathering, and backs were forced to stay rocked over. It was, to repeat, frustrating but useful.
Meeting at the boathouse at one o’clock: our first success. Crew was gathered with only five minutes delay. Some ad hoc warm-up to serious electronica, a tradition brought to M2 by the former members of Michaelmas’s Woods novice boat, warmed us up in the grim weather and the good mood of the oarsmen and coxswain was palpable. Rowers dancing by the River Cam must have been a surprising sight for boats passing by. Dear Dorothy was launched, and we were ready to push off.
We warmed up according to standard procedures heading towards Baits Bite Lock. One would have thought it an easy task but there was clearly some nervousness playing in, because balance was worryingly bad on the way to the starting line. Some small incidents and a slight haul towards stroke side unsettled the crew. These were tense minutes. However, with warm-up bursts, balance and composure was regained. We pulled up to the bank and awaited our turn to race.
So, finally, we were off. Some few strokes at easy pace got us moving, and the time had come for us to build up the rate – or so we thought. Suddenly, Tim shouted from the bank. Rosie (cox) responded quickly and made us hold up. This time, Tim’s voice was heard clearly: “No! BUILD up!” M2 will have to improve its starts. But we were by now racing, and the build-up that followed was not to the disappointment of either crew or coach, considering our slim experience. Coxswain provided reassuring coxing; never did we as oarsmen worry or doubt the sense of the commands given. We wouldn’t have had time to worry anyway, for there was sufficiently much to worry about as it were. On a few occasions was the impact of a flawed catch felt throughout the boat, and the fear of crabbing followed suit as a subtle chill down the spine. But nothing serious ever happened. After what did not feel like the infinity of an erg time-trial we crossed the finishing line. And a choir of relieved and tired rowers could conclude they were still above water. 8 minutes, 22 seconds. In hindsight it must be said that there is a potential for great improvement – and a dire need! Our time could not match that of the Bumps opposition. Knowing that is no doubt good motivation. But there was no reason to be let down by that. For the crew, the race was definitely a success.
All in all, M2 are happy with our result. Endorphins were flowing during the warm-down stretch, eminently conducted by Phil Wilkinson, 6. M2 are looking forward to creating serious trouble for Queens’ M3 later this term.