With a lingering tinge of regret and failure, the crew congregated for pasta faff for the final time on the Friday night: Henryk finally arriving on time and Tom and Hugh taking over stove duties, this turned out to be a very successful meal – in particular the invention of cheese pittas was appreciated by all attending.
The last day started off in a very relaxed manner. With an apparently weak (and at this point spooning) LMBC 3 behind and our nemesis’ Clare Hall back in front, it seemed that a long but somewhat comfortable row-over would be the order of the day. Even at the start line there was an aura of calm over the whole division with great banter coming from all the boats around – “We’re back!” said the LMBC no. 2 after their first successful row over and many of the Clare Hall men were equally amused by our ridiculous tussle over the past few days.
But still, we couldn’t let this distract us from the task in hand, we had to row over to avoid becoming next year’s sandwich boat and since it was division 3, there was always the potential for carnage or a casual overbump. With our last trip to the Baits-Bite porter loos completed and our final handshake down the boat, we were off. Once again we showed the division how a race start should be done, soaring off the start and leaving the red blades of LMBC miles in our wake. Sadly this wasn’t to last. Having clearly found their rhythm at last on day 4, Maggie slowly reeled us back in. This wasn’t meant to happen, they’ve just been bumped 3 days in a row! As our bows approached first post corner, we all began to realize we had a serious battle on our hands and from then on, it was one of the most exhilarating races of our lives. The banks were packed with spectators and the river filled with bumped boats: everyone transfixed by the Spartan contest between red and blue. As we passed through the Gut, round Grassy corner and on to the Plough reach, they were pulling ever closer and were up to two (very dubious) whistles.
Rounding Ditton corner it was a new race. Still with significant support from the bank we started to move away as we headed down the reach. With the memory of M1’s late bump on the line still fresh in our mind and the perpetual power 10s coming down the cox box, we were determined not to let this race slip. Coming under the railway bridge, we gave one more surge and after a short while we finally reached the finish line (wherever it was) with Maggie but a length and a half away â€“ at most. And who was there to greet us as we crossed the line? None other than our good old friends Clare Hall.
Ecstatic to have rowed over and with a mutual appreciation of a great race, we paddled home with great pride in our achievements over the past 5 days. After a few party tricks to please the patient crowds (the Pembroke women were particularly impressed by strokes to lying down “DO IT AGAIN ROBINSON”) we packed away the boat, threw the cox in the river and headed to the pub, Lent bumps was over for another year.