Development Squad 2006

After huge attendance at a pre-Dev. Squad meeting during May Term, held in Magdalene College, it seemed as though the coming summer training camp and next year’s batch of triallists was going to be a large one. Couple this huge interest with four weeks of blue skies, relaxed but developmental training and an ever present blazing summer sun, and things definitely started to look positive! With Dev. Squad oversubscribed as ever, certain selections had to be made and CUW are grateful to those who helped out in this process. Rowers intent on trialling, but not being present at Dev. Squad, were asked to also attend these first few mornings, to gauge an idea of numbers and standard expected in October.

It was then down to the real business of Dev. Squad – using three weeks of complete freedom to produce crews that would be able to travel to local and national regattas and bring home the goods. The training is designed to give rowers an insight into the full trialling process that begins in late September, so there was a large amount of water training, coupled with erg sessions and weekly trips to Fenners, the University gym, for weights and circuits. At this early stage crews are fairly flexible, with people moving between the four boats as the coaches fix together crews that will work most coherently together. At this stage, they pay special attention to selecting rowers for two specific crews, the lightweight boat, and the crew that will represent CUW at Nat. Champs, which this year was held in Strathclyde.

Alongside the training schedule, there is plenty of time for numerous other activities, and many new friendships are forged as strongly outside the boats as they are from within. Inevitably there are always one or two birthdays within the month, and these prove an excellent opportunity for BBQ’s, trips out or even the creation of birthday cakes made, highly artistically, in the shape and mould of an entire regatta…! CULRC, who hold a similar Dev. Squad for their club, also see fit to invite CUW for a meal, which is always a good chance to socialise outside of CUW.

Finally, after these weeks of developing crews and individuals, of strengthening and improving technique, it is time to take to the water at various competitive events and show why CUW has such a reputation as such a successful club across the country. The first regattas attended were Molesey Regatta, which happened to coincide with the National Championships in Strathclyde, Scotland, where CUW also sent a crew.

Molesey Regatta took place in beautiful sunshine. Despite a stressful start, (where the coach driver decided to go the wrong way round the M25!), some cooperative rigging and swift changing ensured that the crews were ready to race on time. The lightweight crew, competing as WS4 proceeded competently through their qualifying rounds, drawing the second heavyweight crew in an all-CUW final. They beat their opposition to collect their pots and points. The other heavyweight crew competed in WS2, which they also won in style.

In Scotland, under incredibly hot conditions and after some 8 hours of driving, the week old crew representing CUW set out to do their best, the respective crew from the year before having come fourth in the final of the Women’s VIIIs. Unfortunately, things were not to turn out quite as well this year. In the first round qualifier CUW struggled to find a strong rhythm, falling short of making it straight to the final, a place reserved for only the top two crews, instead making it to the repechage. However, during the first race, the competition favourites, Furnivall, coxed by CUW ex-Blue Boat cox Rebecca Dowbiggin, caught a boat stopping crab, and so too finished only high enough to make it through to the rep. Being realisitic, this reduced the number of places available to the other crews that had made it to the rep, CUW included.

Despite a strong start in this final race, which saw CUW move to half a length up on Thames RC, Thames pulled out an excellent last 500m to move back through CUW and just steal the position for the final on the following day. Nevertheless, this second 2k race had been far more solid than the first as the crew learned from the experience.

St Neots featured as the final regatta of Dev Squad, with all the crews entered, some in the same category, which was anticipated to lead to some very competitive finals! In insanely stormy conditions that saw thunder, lightning and squalls threatening to overturn VIIIs, CUW ended up winning WS2, WS3 and WS4, though the same VIII that had been unfortunate at the National Championships once again struck disaster – this time in the form of a wandering swan that strayed across the racing lane just as the crew approached the only bend in the course, already half a length up on their rivals, the CUW lightweight crew. Said swan strayed just far enough, despite the speeding boat, to entangle itself around each bowside blade as they passed, knocking 3 off her seat and her seat into the footwell. Though the crew valiantly re-started and chased after the lightweights, they were unable to make up the lost ground and finished a length down.

Nevertheless, CUWBC overall walked away hugely successful, and the evening was spent celebrating this and the end of a well run and positive Dev Squad, with many members keen now to return in September and begin the trialling process that leads through the year towards the Henley Boat Races in April.

James Appleton