First CUWBC Tideway Trial VIIIs

On Thursday 19th December 2013, for the first time in the history of the Club and in preparation for the Women’s Boat Race moving to the Tideway in 2015, the annual Trial VIIIs race took place on the Championship Course: 4 miles 374 yards from Putney to Mortlake.

Monty Python-themed crews, ‘Nudge Nudge’ and ‘Wink Wink’ (and third VIII, ‘Say No More’) had spent the preceding week training out of Thames Rowing Club. The chance to spend an extended period on the Tideway, away from Cambridge and the distraction of academic work, enabled the crews to develop as a unit in advance of the fixture.

Lottie Meggitt in the bowseat of ‘Nudge Nudge’, and the first Cambridge woman to cross the finish line in a Championship Course Trial VIIIs race, describes Tideway week and the race from her perspective:

“Being Cambridge students we couldn’t leave our books behind completely, and one in particular hit a nerve with our crew. ‘Will it make the boat go faster’ is the story of the GB men’s VIII which won gold at the Sydney Olympics. Ben Hunt Davies’ description of the Olympic final, in which they decide to go out as hard as they can and then hang on for dear life, was a real source of inspiration to us: in the last 500m he has nothing left, but as he looks down the boat he thinks of his crew mates pushing and knows he has to keep backing them up.

This was our plan and something we knew we had the mental toughness to replicate. We had watched boat race videos. We had seen crews row round the outside of the bend to win, we had seen crews rowed through after someone blows up. This race seemed to be about finding our chance and taking it for all it was worth.

In some initial side by side paddling the previous week we’d been a bit behind Wink Wink, but with each outing, we started to find a solid rhythm that we soon felt became unstoppable. Some practice starts and blade clashes in sparring with ‘Say No More’ gave us confidence that we were capable of some good speed and could hold our nerve, and onto our oars, in tough situations.

Coming through Putney Bridge to the start line the atmosphere was incredible; tradition mixed with innovation, and we all had a lot of confidence in ourselves, and more importantly in each other.

We had certainly had faster starts during the week but even though Wink Wink had took a 2/3 length lead by Barn Elms, our killer rhythm lead by a stern pair of double blue Holly Game and Newcastle legend Izzy Vyvyan, backed up unfalteringly by a very strong and gutsy middle 4, started to buy us back some seats and we passed Harrods level.

With the big Surrey bend coming up in their advantage, Esther called for us to make our move and twenty hard on the legs gained us 3 seats. At the top of the Chiswick Eyot we made our second move, this time closing the door on ‘Wink Wink’ and flying out to a full length just past the Crossing Point, eventually winning by an official verdict of three lengths.

Racing that course will be one of the most memorable experiences of my life: It is truly a race incomparable to any other. All nine members of ‘Nudge Nudge’ can’t wait to take the rhythm, trust and bravery they have learnt over the past few days into their Blue Boat, Blondie, and Lightweight crews for the 2014 Henley Boat Races. But more importantly, quite a few of them will be taking it to the Tideway in 2015 too.”

'Wink Wink' racing 'Nudge Nudge' with 'Say No More' supporting from Hammersmith Bridge. Photograph courtesy of Christopher Down.
‘Wink Wink’ racing ‘Nudge Nudge’ with ‘Say No More’ supporting from Hammersmith Bridge. Photograph courtesy of Christopher Down.

Earlier in the day, ‘Say No More’ had their own ‘trial’ against a competent crew from Thames RC, racing on the ebb tide from Chiswick Eyot to Putney. After a strong start, both crews were level, but ‘Say No More’ started to gain a slight advantage with the inside of the Surrey Bend in their favour. They hit a strong rhythm under Hammersmith Bridge and accumulated a lead of 3/4l before Harrods. The Thames crew clung on to them, and they were unable to break free. The bend then turned in Thames’ favour who drew back to level by Barn Elms. At the Black Buoy, Thames had pulled out a slight lead, but both crews sprinted hard to the finish line and Say No More finished 1/2l down.

Despite finishing down, the experience of racing side by side against good opposition, over a duration of around 12 minutes was invaluable. The squad as a whole would like to thank Thames RC for their hospitality for the duration of the Tideway week as well as for the good racing!

Nudge Nudge
C: Esther Momcilovic #
S: Holly Game #
7: Izzy Vyvyan
6: Kate Ashley
5: Valentina Futoryanova
4: Catherine Foot
3: Hannah Evans
2: Anouska Bartlett
B: Lottie Meggitt *

Wink Wink
C: Priya Crosby
S: Melissa Wilson #
7: Jilly Tovey *
6: Fiona Macklin
5: Caroline Reid #
4: Sara Lackner +
3: Hannah Roberts
2: Sarah Crowther
B: Ella Barnard

Say No More
C: Will McDermott
S: Gabriella Johansson
7: Jenna Dittmar
6: Clare Hall +
5: Christina Ostacchini
4: Emma Walker
3: Abbie Lawrence
2: Louisa Salmon
B: Stella Isaac

# Denotes previous Blue
* Denotes previous Half Blue
+ Denotes previous Blondie-colour