Sunday 26th of May saw W1 competing in Nines Regatta, a 1000 metre long side-by-side knockout race from the Reach to the Pike & Eel. Four members of the current crew had won the 2018 edition of this regatta in the “Middle Women” division; the explicit aim for W1 was now to defend this title, this time within the “Upper Women” draw.
Conditions on the day were very windy – not that this bothered W1, whose motto throughout term had been “it doesn’t matter if you’re unbalanced as long as you’re super powerful” (note that the same does not apply in politics). Due to the early scratch of several entries, W1’s first race was a semi-final. Very little was known about our opposition, Rob Roy, who had not entered the previous races of term. Our coach, Tim Newton, speculated that they might be Juniors, but warned us not to discount them: his pre-race briefing covered tactical eventualities ranging from “what if they destroy us” to “what if we have a five-lengths lead”. Slight jitters, combined with the headwind gusts, resulted in a somewhat scrappier start than W1 would have preferred. Nevertheless, we pulled away from Robs within the start sequence, and opened up clear water immediately. Our comfortable advantage left us with only one challenge: our cox, Phyllis, had to steer clear of the swans floating around the course like erratic Koopas trying to impede our red-and-blue Mario Bros boat. By the Railway Bridge, our strokewoman Emma decided that we might as well keep fresh legs for the next race, and took the rating down to 28. Robs put in a final push but the final verdict was an easy win for Sidney W1 with three lengths of clear water.
The turnaround between the semi-final and the Cup final was speedy – we were parked along the bank just long enough to breathe in the swirling towpath dust. We lined up against Queens’ W2, who had been a handful of seconds slower than us in the previous week’s Champs Eights Head. Our start was far more controlled than on the first race; and although Queens’ kept up with us on the first few strokes, we left them behind when we transitioned into our signature “accelerate” call at rate 38. Lengthening our drive and maintaining good balance, we opened up clear water within the first hundred and fifty meters. Queens’ hung on well, and kept distance for the first half of the Reach. However, a rogue move on our part took them by surprise: on the bank, Tim loudly shouted at us that we should “keep doing what we’re doing”… but Phyllis pushed us into an extra “build” call, taking the rating up and surging away from Queens’. May Bumps opponents should beware: you never know when Sidney W1 is going to step it up. An additional build under the Railway Bridge, followed by a truly thrilling empty-out for the final stretch of the race, saw us beat Queens’ by a length and a half of clear water, and thereby win Nines Regatta for the second year running.
Big thanks go to our surprise bank party of the day, alumna Chris Carpenter, and to all the Nines marshals for the smooth running of the races. The prize-giving ceremony at Nines boathouse was the occasion to take a now-traditional balcony selfie with pots, and to meet inspirational five-year-old Frances, whom we convinced to apply to the College of the Lady Frances Sidney Sussex in a dozen years. Winning is great, but it was especially thrilling to celebrate our success with both an alumna and the youngest of recruits: a strong day for the Sidney women’s side.
— Penned by W1’s own Camille Lardy