Sorry for the silence. Between getting the dissertation printed, working on manuscript revisions for a different project, end-of-term activities, and coaching, I've been a bit busy.
The May bumps were this week, and I've been coaching First and Third Boat Club's men's 3rd eight (a.k.a. M3). At the beginning of term, it was a bit messy and I wasn't sure what to think, but as time went on, they began to apply the power in the same direction (very important when moving a boat!) and started to row well together. We had the difficult task of trying to get them to row with relatively the same technique, as they had varying levels of experience. Our other limiting factor was that we had 12 outings this term. At Cambridge, undergraduate students may have to sit examinations at various points during the Easter term. For our boat, they seemed to be contained within the last two weeks of term and we didn't have any outings for a good stretch of time. Somehow, come Bumps week, they were able to remember all the things we'd worked on and rowed very well together.
Day 1 was an exciting race, as they were chasing Girton and Girton were chasing Selwyn. Girton had closed in on Selwyn pretty quickly but Selwyn were holding them off. When Girton's cox'n took one of the corners wide, Selwyn took that opportunity to get away, and we took that opportunity to bump them. Once a boat is bumped, the race is finished for those two boats and they must move off the racecourse (pull over to either side of the river and stay out of the way of boats that are behind them). Day 2, we moved up a position, as we had bumped Girton, and were intent on chasing Selwyn. They were chasing Churchill and bumped them quickly, leaving us no one to chase because the boats in front of them were very fast; therefore, we 'rowed over', meaning that we maintained our position, while Selwyn and Churchill swapped places. Day 3, our goal was to bump Churchill before the first corner on the river, which they did easily. Just 15 strokes off the start, M3 were within a length of Churchill and moved up on them within the next 30 strokes. What happened after that was mayhem, as M3 were stopped on a corner and there were boats behind us. There are umpires who direct the boats while they are racing so that no one gets hurt, but accidents are inevitable. At some point, a bump occurred and there was a sudden 5-boat pileup across the river from us. One unfortunate rower's blade hit a tree, which caused him to be ejected from the boat and into the water. He is fine - just a bit bruised. An ambulance came trundling up the towpath for him. Imagine a narrow pathway about 5 feet across, filled with coaches on bicycles, spectators, and umpires. Now add a minivan-sized ambulance to that scene. Day 4, we were chasing the ever-elusive Selwyn again. We caught up to them by the second corner on the river, and had overlapping canvasses (the ends of the boat) by the third corner. I was on whistle duty: because the rowers can't see how far the boat is from the boat in front of them, they devised signals for them. One whistle means one length of open water, 2 means half a length, and three means a quarter length. Continuous whistles mean that the bump is immenent. I got very excited when they got overlap and spat the whistle out, by accident, so M3 got 1 whistle instead of the intended continuous whistles. Luckily, the whistle was on a string around my neck, so I recovered and started whistling again. Selwyn's cox'n was very good, however, and steered out of the way of our boat so that we couldn't make contact. Selwyn had a lot more endurance and pulled away after that point, forcing M3 to chase them all the way to the end of the course. Churchill, because the boat chasing them had been bumped, began to close in on M3. They had a very slow start, but like Selwyn, had more endurance and began to move up on the boys. They fought back and were able to maintain about half a length of open water between the boats until the finish. In the end, M3 moved up 2 positions in their division, which was a difficult thing to do because it was a challenging division to be in. They were a fun bunch to coach and I'm hoping that most of them will stick with rowing. After the racing, we all went our separate ways to shower and change for the Boat Club dinner. The men's first boat were able to break Caius's 6-year Headship. Boats that finish at the top of their division have 'headship'; however, the one boat that finishes at the top of the first division is considered 'Head of the River'. To celebrate, the winning crew will take an old wooden boat, put their victorious cox'n on top, and carry it from the boathouse to College where it is set on fire after the dinner. The winning crew then jumps over the boat while it is still alight.
I have posted the last two days' racing and the boat burning photos in a Facebook picture album. Click on the link below (or paste it into your browser window):
We are coming to the final week of term, also known as Mays week, which is in June and consists of parties that seem to run into each other. I don't think I can cope with so many events and opted to attend only two: the Boat Club dinner and the Trinity May Ball. Tomorrow is the May Ball, which begins with an optional dinner at 7 (we opted out) and the Ball at 9. This goes until 6 Tuesday morning and there is a survivors photo that is taken at that point. I'm not sure I have the stamina for a 9-hour party, especially since I fly back to the States, Tuesday evening. Watch this space.
Happy Father's Day!