On Friday 24 February CULRC travelled to London to compete in two fixtures against Tideway clubs. A lightweight London Rowing Club eight was the opposition on Saturday followed by a heavyweight Imperial College Boat Club crew on Sunday. Saturday was also the date of a very important event in the CULRC calendar, the annual alumni races and dinner.
After the banalities of rigging had been dealt with, the LRC and CULRC eights boated at Putney and paddled up to Chiswick, where the first piece, a low-rate battle-paddle to Hammersmith Bridge, was to commence. CULRC, who were on the Middlesex station, pulled ahead off the start and held their lead for the entire piece. To begin with, the CULRC eight were looking strong and moved ahead to clear water. After allowing LRC to move back, they got their game together and the distance between the two crews varied between half a length to a length as they moved towards Hammersmith. Towards the end of the piece both crews began to squeeze their stroke rates up, but it was CULRC who passed under Hammersmith Bridge first, three-quarters of a length in front of London.
The second event of the day was a side-by-side six-minute piece from a standing start, beginning just below Hammersmith Bridge. LRC won the toss and took the Middlesex station. Again, CULRC had a strong start, taking two seats out of the LRC eight. LRC pulled back level with CULRC as their rhythm was disturbed by wash from a passing launch. However, CULRC managed to pull back level before putting in a crew push just before the halfway mark. Subsequently CULRC took the lead, and then moved away from London to finish on a two length lead.
The day’s races culminated with a series of starts against various scratch CULRC alumni crews. In total there were three races so that every alumnus was able to have a shot at beating the current CULRC eight. Whilst some of the alumni were members of last year’s crew, others had not been out in a boat for a number of years! Despite the fact that the alumni had to assemble their crews on the day, they put in an impressive effort in the races. The alumni were able to walk away with one victory under their belts: on the third piece the alumni eight moved up on this year’s crew (after a somewhat questionable start) and managed to hold onto their lead until the piece was called down early due to a sailing boat ahead. Unfortunately for them, the scales were evened out when the piece was rerun under slightly less biased conditions.
The final event of the day was the CULRC dinner, held in the RAF Club at Piccadilly. It was a great success and was a testament to the important role the club has played in many people’s university careers and beyond. It also allowed current squad members to meet the alumni they had raced and exchange stories about rowing and university life.
Sunday was another big day for the CULRC squad. The squad’s bow-side sub, David Thomas, was brought in for the day’s racing, since Rupert Price was away at U23 trials. CULRC began the day with a short, technical paddle to adjust to the new crew.
After a brief rest and refuel, CULRC were back on the water and paddling up to Chiswick with ICBC, where the races were to begin. There were four two-minute pieces in total, interspersed with paddling. CULRC were stationed on Middlesex. The first piece began as the crews moved under Chiswick Bridge, with both eights pushing the rate beyond the limit. This piece was promising for CULRC, who sat three-quarters of a length up when the crews were called down. Unfortunately for CULRC, Imperial won the second piece, which started at Barnes Bridge, by a similar margin. In the third piece Imperial, who had the inside line, pushed through CULRC to clear water. However, the racing was not over and CULRC rose to the challenge in the fourth and final piece. They had a good start taking two seats, but Imperial again rowed through them to lead by almost a length. However, CULRC put in a strong push to the finish and came back to be almost level with Imperial by the end of the piece.
Aside from the pleasure of winning some of the races, CULRC walked away from the weekend having gained valuable racing experience, which they will be able to use to further their pursuit of victory in this year’s boat race. CULRC are extremely grateful to LRC and ICBC for having given them the opportunity to race them this weekend and look forward to future collaborations.