2012 M1 Lent Bumps – Day 1

Perfect preparation prevents piss-poor performance, so the collected members of M1 were relieved when Henryk, our stroke, arrived less than a minute late on Wednesday for the first day of Bumps. This swiftly changed, however, as his bike skidded out at high speed, leaving us with our hearts in our mouths, and him with a hole in his chin. While the ensuing stitches meant that he ended the week with a developing goatee and a 4 kg weight loss, at the time he merely dusted himself down, put on a plaster, claimed to be in shock, and got in the boat.
We were fairly confident we had the beating of most crews after some good sparring results against Maggie and Jesus M1s, but we also knew that after an over-the-lock encounter ten days before, Fitz, who we were chasing, were the one crew on the river who really knew how fast we could go, having sat on their stern for about a kilometre. They would be expecting us, and they would go hard off the gun. Everyone was nervous, although none more so than Steve, coaching. His confession to all sorts of despicable acts on London buses was more than enough to cut through the tension marshalling at the P&E, and we got back into the boat to row up buoyed by this revelation and the earlier sight of W1 covered in greenery.
Our warm-up was scrappy, with missed strokes on both the starts, while I felt a bit of an idiot at bow realising that I’d been rowing without my feet properly attached for the previous three weeks. However, doing our rate-build along First post reach we could feel how comfortable we were at high-rate, and the boat started to relax. For 3 of us, this was to be our first experience of Bumps.
With most of the crew taking a rest-stop with ten minutes to go, we were empty of everything except our nervous excitement. Simon’s compulsive side, belying his easy-going nature, became clear at this moment as we checked everything about 5 times before the 4-minute cannon. Dekitting and getting in the boat it was incredible how quickly the seconds counted down to the start, but the cannon was soon upon us.
Our start was solid if nothing special, and it was only as we moved into our first 10 on the legs that we really left Catz, chasing us, in our wake. While Henryk may have been ridiculed last year for his inability to step down the rate and stride, this was entirely our plan as we settled from 43 down to 38, out-rating Fitz ahead of us substantially. Struggling slightly with the rough water left by the 16 boats above us, we gained one whistle before going through the motorway bridge, where Steve’s words meant our technique improved dramatically, remembering to sit tall and draw high.
Hampered by our inability to hear Jess and Jess’ inability to hear whistles, a worry that had been haunting her all week, we were well-versed in our race plan and pushed hard off the motorway bridge, sitting at two whistles as Fitz frantically fought to keep us off them. As we came towards first post corner, however, we quickly moved up to a canvas and then pushed hard again to bump on the inside with only 2 minutes of racing done. Job done, we struggled to get round Fitz to pull in away from Catz behind us, and despite a couple of early celebrations were able to relax until the row back, where the increased send in the boat was palpable. All focus switched to Day 2 and King’s, who would be no easy task.