Six Wadham crews competed for the sought-after Head of the River title in the biggest Oxford rowing event of the year as Lia Orlando reports.
Summer Eights 2016 was an overall success for Wadham – the women maintained the headship and the men climbed the ranks of Division 1 to 8th, just 1 bump shy from Blades. The glorious W3, despite being a scratch crew and needing to qualify in Rowing on the week before, bumped their way up to glorious Blades, and all before the gut! M3 (known amongst friends as Mdream), despite getting bumped on all of the first three days, keep their resilience for a clean row-over on day 4, fielding off some tough competition (thanks to all the alumni that made Mdream possible!). M2 also had a tough time: a long row-over on day 1 and an early klaxon on day 2 delayed their sought-after bump to day 3. W2 fought hard in amongst some strong first boats from other colleges, but sadly got spoons, falling four positions in Division 3 over the week.
W1: Joe Reason (c) - Rachel Anderson (s), Anna Robotham, Maddy Badcott, Lia Orlando, Olivia Weatherhead, Lena Mangold, Maddy Butler, Eliza Mauhs-Pugh (b).
W2: Dani Chattenton (c) - Giulia Vidori (s), Vera Tardos, Georgia Mason, Jessica Morgan, Sam Harris, Megan Edwards, Natasha Davie, Christina Tang (b)
W3: Scott Houghton (Adit Kale for rowing on) (c) - Linnea Jacobsson (s), Alienor Hunter, Emma Doran (Sophie Aldred for Wed), Therese Feiler (Meaghan Riley for RO, Thur, Fri), Kristina Kæmpfer, Nicole Sochor, Louise Tear (Jen Appleby for Fri), Lynn Chua (b)
M1: Tim Davies (c) - James Evry (s), Jonathan Cheung, Kjølv Egeland, Hector Manly, Rich Appleby, Moritz Esch, Nick Basty, Tom Malpas (b)
M2: Ben Walker (c) - Joe Reason (s), Roy Kimachia, Kishan Makwana, Gabriel Dalboozi, Louis Skinner, Edoardo Pirovano, Moritz Seiler, Seb Grogan (b)
M3: Lia Orlando/James Evry (c) - Scott Houghton (s), Alberico Santiano, Tom Johnes, Leevi Mehtäjärvi, Robin Wilson, Eduardo Beattie Eizaguirre, Hao Wen, Avishek Mondal (b)
A view from within the boat
W1: Eliza Mauhs-Pugh
Delirium. The sing of a boat running underneath. The single clunk of eight oarlocks. Trembling hands, white roses, a chesty cough and the smell of Prosecco. Rod smiling.
Saturday lives with me in a series of flashes, all of them doused in happiness and sunshine and jubilation at keeping the Headship at Wadham for the third year in a row.
Our boat, our race.
The nine of us had sat in a boat together precisely twice before Wednesday. If Hilary was the term of guess-the-flag-color (red, always red), Trinity was one long game of rower-roulette. The first weeks we spent as a 1st IV, not a 1st VIII, and when we did finally get an VIII out our bow-side seats changed hands quicker than kingship in GoT. Boat Club Society Treasurer Diana Mountain sat in at bow for an outing, Hannah Stratford found herself bouncing from seven to five to three and back, and our soon-to-be captain Olivia switched sides every outing for a month. Lena Mangold, in a show of considerable bravery, moved up into the boat just over a week before VIIIs, and the Sunday before racing we were joined by Maddy Badcott and Anna Robotham, our two Blues, who graciously decided to forego post-finals revelry to defend Wadham’s Headship. With just two outings behind us, on Wednesday afternoon we stared out into the abyss of the absolute unknown.
The unknown, it turns out, was called Pembroke, and they were fast.
Bumps racing is a 96-hour game of psychological chicken. And nowhere is it worse than at the Head, where you cannot chase but only run, run away. What was stunning, what kept us the Headship – and what makes me bone-shatteringly proud – is that we refused to panic (well, aside from that little bit on Thursday). Even when we found out that Pembroke had made a mid-race crew change to pack even more Blues into their boat, we collected ourselves as a crew and kept our heads and our minds in our boat. We had learned over the preceding days that the second half of the race was our half of the race; we would hold them as they pushed and pushed, and when they couldn’t push anymore we would just pull away.
On Friday their newly formulated crew threw every single thing they had at us; they pushed off the bung line and they pushed through the Gut and they pushed on the crossing, and they closed. They did close. But there is a limit to how long any rower can push. Halfway down the course they had depleted themselves and our race was just beginning; as we reached Univ boathouse the water between us was widening. Sadly that was also when the klaxon, caused by the unfortunate meeting of the Teddy Hall cox and an errant Oriel blade, sounded. But in that moment we knew we could hold them; they had shown their entire hand and we had matched it, card for card.
Our boat, our race.
So as we sat at the bung line on Saturday, very much sober in a sea of drunken happiness, we prepared ourselves to watch their pink backs close us down – half a length, a quarter– and to hold them there. But in that first draw each of us committed ourselves in a way I don’t think we quite had to that point, and the boat moved. We held station on Pembroke through the Gut and down Greenbanks and past the absolute madness of Boathouse Island and across the finish line in the knowledge that we hadn’t simply run, we had lead. We had dictated that race, and we had rowed it well. Our boat. Our race.
Happy Birthday, Rod. We got you another Headship. We hope you like it.
M3: James Evry
Popularly known as 'Mdream' by their adoring fan, the crew came together for only 2 brief outings before racing (if it's good enough for W1 it's good enough for them), the first of which involved possibly more crabs than the Isis has ever seen in a single outing (including a heels-over-head near ejector, a dark art that few other than Avishek have ever mastered). Still, the dream lived on and the boys went into racing at the very foot of fixed divisions, determined to make an impact.
On day one, their impact unfortunately occurred at the wrong end of the boat. with Univ 3 bumping out ahead too early to give M3 a sniff of catching them, what can only be described as a demonically possessed caterpillar (Somerville M2) hunted down our boys from behind, rating something far higher than physics should have allowed. M3 were bumped on the entrance to the gut. The dream was dead.
With blades hopes now out the window and sitting in the miserable position of sandwich boat, day 2 was tragical
tragically even shorter than day 1, with M3 mown down by a rapid LMH 2. Despite the two days of being bumped, cox Lia Orlando made valiant efforts to hold off the attackers, risking life and limb with perfectly late concessions, proving where her priorities lie between her W1 5-seat and Mdream.
Even before getting on the water, day 3 took a turn for the worse. Lia was stuck in Reading on medic duties, meaning I had to take the reigns on this wild and unpredictable crew. After a short prayer that luck would guide our course clear of the banks, we set off for the bunglines, practicing calling my first racing starts along the way. Amazingly, when we shot of the start line we gained rapidly on the demonically possessed caterpillar (Somerville M2) that had bumped us on day 1, but Mansfield M2 were likewise closing on us fast from behind. Through the gut it we went hell for leather after the demonically possessed caterpillar (Somerville M2), closing to just 1 foot on the exit. I was yelling to the boys "Canvas, canvas canvas, go now go go go!!!" but alas after a swipe and miss from Mansfield behind, we were eventually bumped when Tom Johnes ran out of his 40 seconds' worth of juice. After the race, comments from bow four including "I wish I had known how close we were, I couldn't hear a bloody thing!" taught me that screaming in combination with electronic amplification can be counterproductive....
Day 4 and we were back in the boat, with supersubs Ross in for a sadly ill Edu, and me for an unfortunately injured Lia. Having learnt many lessons from the previous day, we had prepared properly for this race: I turned the cox box volume down to minimum; Tom Johnes and Robin had 'fuelled up' overnight at the alumni's beer eight dinner, arriving at the river raring to go and numb to all pain (at least once TJ had borrowed some sunglasses to ease the headache); and Hao ensuring he nourished himself properly with KFC chicken wings and a burger in the 10 minutes prior to boating.
Anticipating the worst with Keble M3 chasing, I wasn't surprised to hear Scott relaying to me the fact that Keble were closing hard on us off the start and into the gut, down to less than a canvas. But then from somewhere deep in their bodies, the chicken wings and beer started to kick in, the sun came out from behind the clouds, and M3 started to pull away from Keble. Moving to a full length clear past the boathouses to rapturous applause, we steamed away and over the finish line. The dream came back to life, and spoons were saved for another year.