It sounds boring when a regatta goes exactly the way it was expected to go, but Sidney M1’s day at Pembroke Regatta was anything but. Ranging from dreamlike practice starts over dreamy wait periods in the warm spring sun to nightmarishly bursting lungs in competition with one of Cambridge’s – most likely – fastest senior crews, this day had plenty of positives on offer for our boat.
Pembroke Regatta is a 1100m head-to-head knock-out race. It starts at the spinning zone right at the end of the reach and ends at the P&E. It was certainly one of the better days to row this course, with plenty of sunshine and hardly any wind making life difficult for the crews both on and off the water.
Our first race was against Clare Hall M1, who we considered beatable but not to be underestimated. If we won, we were to race Caius M1, who compete amongst the top of M1 division in Bumps and where therefore not seriously considered beatable.
Rowing up to the marshaling zone, we met up with our bank party, wisely composed of experienced David Winch and youthful Jacob Allen. Under their supportive yet critical eye we made our way up to the Plough, throwing in a respectable practice start on the way which left both us and our bank party sufficiently impressed. After some overly complicated maneuvering and spinning around the Plough both Clare Hall and us made their way to the start right at the beginning of the reach. Would we live up to our own expectations or experience a bitter surprise against the underdogs? After three strokes, it was clear that the former was the case.
Not for the first time, the first one or two strokes of our start were not as clean as we would have hoped. Still, we took off well and by the time we settled into our race speed there was probably already clean water between us and Clare Hall. No cause for idleness, and we continued to extend our lead. By the end of the race it was around three boat lengths. So it was the comfortable win we had aimed for, leaving us well-spirited in our wait for the next race, this time against the Caius Goliaths.
The wait was long, but sweetened by sunny weather and Haribo, which undoubtedly represents an essential component of every race day. Finally, we were allowed to move up to the starting zone again. To warm up again, we went for another practice start on the way up, which – as every crew member admitted to afterwards – was probably the best start this boat has come up with so far this year.
Unfortunately, we were not quite able to pull it off again in the following race. Caius, as was to be expected, were the faster and stronger crew right from the start and moved away only too quickly. We hung in, putting more power down and keeping the distance constant until the motorway bridge, with our cox claiming with some confidence that we even gained on Caius at this point. But ultimately Caius was without a doubt stronger than us and the favourites beat us by deservedly by around 2, 2½ boat lengths in the end. At the close of the day, Caius won the M1 division
So the day went as expected, with one victory and one defeat. But we are happy with our performance. Who knows what Caius are really thinking of us, but our senior bank-partier David Winch was adamant that they probably expected less from us than what we threw at them today. At this point, great thanks to David and Jacob for coming out today in our support! Also, thanks to Pembroke for a well-organised regatta. Ten days before Lent Bumps, this was a day which pointed us towards a few areas of improvement, while at the same time providing us with the legitimate confidence into the – in this author’s humble opinion – undeniable potential of Sidney’s M1 crew.