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Balliol Men at the Henley Boat Races

March 19, 2010 in Captain's Blog

Balliol Men (along with Worcester Women) have put themselves forward for the first colleges event at the Henley Boat Races. For the Balliol Men its a useful training target before Summer VIIIs to offset the usual lull in training that comes at the end of Hilarly term.

The main events of the day are the University Women’s heavyweights race and the Men’s Lightweights race (oh and there’s some other University 2nd VIII races too apparently).

Henley Boat Races
Date: Sunday, 28 March 2010
Time: 12:30 – 15:30
Location: Henley Reach

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Blacker Bulletin

March 18, 2010 in John Blacker Society

Beating Cambridge with the University
Nehaal Bajwa, Triallist with OUWLRC

If, even a short nine months ago, someone had suggested the very concept of my trialling for a place on the Oxford University Women’s Lightweight boat at the Henley Boat Races in March 2010, I would have laughed at them, possibly over one of many (many) summer bowls of ice cream. The fact is that I have never really seen myself as a serious rower, let alone a triallist, and certainly not the only lightweight triallist from Balliol in many years! As someone who was drafted, at the eleventh hour, into the Novice A boat in her first year, and spent much of last year not rowing at all, it is admittedly a not-exactly-predictable turn of affairs. However, here I sit, days away from my first serious weigh-in at Reading Head, having experienced vicious semi-frozen training camps and what seems like innumerable gym sessions.

I have often asked myself how this has happened. The only thing I can be certain of is that we may never know. One contributing factor, however, was certainly the support and advice of the esteemed members of Balliol College Boat Club. With three open-weight women and one lightweight man trialling from Balliol last year, the twelve-session weeks of training, body composition analyses and near-constant guzzling of bananas seemed to be a part of my life even before trialling started this September. The Vice-Captains of the women’s squad at Balliol were very encouraging to any member of the boat club who wanted to trial and I don’t believe the idea to do so would have crossed my mind if our boat club had the same atmosphere as so many others in Oxford, where trialling is seen as a drain on college boat club resources and those who do often have to juggle a tough training schedule with ensuring that they put in enough hours with their own college. A number of people on the lightweight squad have almost ended their involvement with OUWLRC due to conflicts (scheduling or otherwise) with their own boat clubs.

When I compare this with my own experience, I begin to appreciate just how relatively easy rowing with the Lightweights has been for me. Far from ignoring me, BCWBC have sent me their training plans and invitations to crew dinners, and welcomed me back with open arms to their gym sessions whenever I have had to make up for missed training with the Lightweights. We are lucky and rare to have such a positive atmosphere in college, and indeed the strength to put solid crews on the water for Torpids despite three triallists.
Adjusting to the new, fuller, schedule that OUWLRC entailed was still quite an experience. Nothing quite prepares you for the challenge of trying to push physically harder each time whilst making at least a token effort at staying cheerful as well as keeping tutors at bay with precisely the right mixture of actual argument and literary flourish in term essays. Having the support of those in college who trialled last year and, in some cases, who taught me to row in the first place has been invaluable. The only way that I convinced myself to continue through a particularly difficult week, when academic work and erg tests combined in a formidable cocktail of what felt like potential disaster, was to recall the words of one of my friends who trialled for the open-weights last year, that sometimes the only thing you need to do is ensure that you don’t give up. Enough of the process is psychological that, once the decision to carry on has been made, each obstacle diminishes in significance to a temporary and – usually! – surmountable hurdle.

Not that it hasn’t also been an immensely rewarding experience in itself. Despite the ostensible (and indeed actual) aim being to lose and therefore make a weight of 59 kilograms by the end of March, I have eaten more cake in the last three months than possibly during the whole of 2009 prior to that. More importantly, I have met and trained with some of the most impressive and dedicated people I have ever met whilst rowing, made excellent friends and learnt how to constantly raise my expectations of my own abilities. The coaching we have received has been hugely enlightening and I am really beginning to find it easier to just slot into a scratch boat and row well with seven people I may not ever have rowed with before. Whatever happens with selections for the 2010 Henley Boat Race squad, I fully intend (Finals permitting) to bring this flexibility back to Balliol for a term of relaxed rowing, and no small amount of fun. Plus any races I can squeeze in around my exams!

The Cadle Pairs
Neville Mullany, Honorary Senior Member of Blacker Society

The following notice appeared on the board in the Lodge on 12th June 1952.

“Whereas Messrs. Hugessen and Mullany have this day rowed a tub pair steered by Mr. F.J. Lindars, lately stroke of the Balliol Head of the River Crew, on the River Isis from the Bourne Stone to the finishing signal in 14 minutes and 58 secs: It has pleased Donald Cadle Esquire to promote a Match to be rowed in such craft on that River Isis on Wednesday the Eighteenth Day of June, between such Pairs of Gentlemen of Balliol as shall have duly sent their Names together with that of a Steerer to the Secretary by Noon on Monday Excepting only that no Gentleman who has rowed in the First or Second Eight of this College this year shall row, and that no Gentleman who has steered such an Eight shall act as Steerer The course to be rowed from the last Willow Tree on the Oxfordshire Bank, opposite the place of Timm, Boat Builder, to the Finishing Signal on the Berkshire Bank, opposite the Barge of Balliol College And has further of his munificence, offered to award prizes in the form of Beer to such Gentlemen as shall acquit themselves with Distinction. Roger Robinson, Secretary BCBC Fecit.”

What provoked this? Jim Hugessen and I, having been struck by the rowing bug on seeing Balliol regain the Headship after 73 years, took up rowing and were coached in tubs – as was the norm in those days. When Peter Eggington, (later cox of the 1st. VIII) heard of our “conversion” he foolishly placed a bet in the JCR Betting Book that Jim and I could not row that course in under 25 minutes. When Don Cadle heard about this he immediately saw it as a chance to have some fun in BCBC. This was the birth of the Cadle Pairs, which lasted for a number of years, with Don paying for a keg of beer long after he had gone down. For the record, 10 crews composed of “Sportsmen, Athletes, Cricketers, Men of Academic Prowess and other Bucks and Blades” competed that first year. And the beer was found on the Barge after the race.

Dates for the Diary 2010
26th – 29th May: Summer Eights
29th May 2010 : Summer Eights Dinner
18th – 20th June: Henley Women’s Regatta
30 June – 4 July: Henley Royal Regatta

A Bump a Day for All the Men’s Crews

March 16, 2010 in Captain's Blog, John Blacker Society

For the entire week leading up to Torpids 2009 there was a steadily growing knot in my stomach. It was obvious to everyone that I was the novice in the crew, and it was obvious to everyone that it was obvious to everyone that if anyone were to catch a crab, to panic and start slide-rushing, or to otherwise jeopardise a term’s worth of training it would be me.

And yet, one year on and a much more proficient (some would say ‘passable’) rower, I was the same bundle of nervous excitement. I was confident that M1 would end the week one, maybe two places higher than they started, but had no idea how my charges in M2 and M3 would fare. I’d overheard other captains crowing about their lower boats, but I’d not seen any of our direct opposition on the Isis during the brief window of opportunity when green or blue flag meant junior crews could train.  

High stream and winds early on in the week of Torpids meant Wednesday and Thursday were to be run on a limited scale. Wednesday ran ‘half-divisions’ of six boats apiece, so while M2 and M3 had to watch from the boathouse, M1 were left starting 2nd in Division 1b, with an opportunity to row again as the sandwich boat should Exeter be unable to last the distance rowing over.

Our start was scrappy (to put it mildly), but from the six seat I could tell it was fast enough since St. John’s, who I knew to be no pushovers this year, quickly fell further and further behind. Exeter, who train at Wallingford on the same stretch as M1, had always seemed to be tidy as we passed, but without much power. In the end not even race adrenaline could provide the extra push (Exeter ended up getting spoons), Balliol bump Exeter at the entrance to the gut. A tell-tale red mark on the underside of Beeland (his first battle-scar!) is a testament to his first (of many) Torpids bumps.  Just under an hour later we were waiting at the bunglines again, this time at the bottom of division 1a, just behind New. No one had heard anything of how fast they were, but with no one chasing us and so nothing to lose, there was no reason not to go all out from the start – if it didn’t work, we had opportunity to change tactics the next day. With another fast start, we didn’t get an opportunity to throw the kitchen sink at them. Balliol bump New mid-gut.

Already at Thursday, my aim for M1’s week had already been achieved. Earlier in the day M2 had shown their female counterparts how to do it, bumping Univ II after Donnington Bridge, allaying my misplaced fears and reminding me that the training they had put in, and the stewardship of my vice-captain and cox, Simon Wan, would be more than enough to see them do much the same on Friday and Saturday. The less said the better about M1’s race that day. Trying to correct the scrappiness of the previous day’s start by applying less pressure was perhaps an error, translating into a scrappy but underpowered start, meaning Oriel were able to keep the gap all the way through the gut. Gains were made and lost time and again throughout the course, but when the cox’s call of “just half a length” turned to “3/4” and then more, the fizz died out, leaving me worried for the next day, when John’s, who I knew to be gunning for blades that week, would once again be on our tail.

Friday saw the first full day’s racing, and M3’s first opportunity to race since finishing strongly in Rowing On. With Green Templeton I right behind them, I had warned them that more than ever a fast bump would be crucial.  But, while I told them that Wadham M4 were ‘looking fast,’ it was only to the cox that I mentioned that Wadham M4’s stern pair had both rowed M1 last Summer Eights. Much of the remaining crew had previously rowed M1 or 2, so the cox needed to keep a clear line in the likely event of Wadham bumping out early. Unsurprisingly, they did this not long after the bridge, but M3 quickly closed the double-sized gap between them and St. Hilda’s II without much strain; there was already overlap by mid-gut. Balliol overbump Hilda’s at the exit of the gut. Not to be outdone, a couple of hours later M2 did the same, overbumping St. John’s II at the gut. Poetic as it might have been for M1 to also achieve an overbump that day, there’s rarely that much difference between crews at the top half of division one. But for all of M1 – the seniors and newcomers alike – any bump on Oriel would do. It was much to our relief, then, to hear our coach’s call to wind up for the bump, “SHUT THE DOOR!”, just into the gut. As had happened in practice, there were five increasingly powerful pushes on the legs, and five more to keep the pressure up. We felt the boat fly. But the bump didn’t come. Nothing to worry about yet – Oriel were better drilled than Exeter or New – and there was much more to come. Next came five on the backs, each more forceful than the last. Another five to keep the pressure up. Again, another surge in speed, but no bump was forthcoming. Fine. We’ve more to give. The pressure was brought up again with five more on the legs – “WHY.” “DON’T.” “YOU.” “CON.” “CEDE?” 25 Strokes of out of our 30 stroke wind in. I could just about see the wash from Oriel’s Empacher, but it was hard to concentrate on anything but the fire in my chest and legs.

“SHUT THE DOOR!!!” Again? He had to be kidding. Just coming out of the gut, there was little to lose as St. John’s were nowhere to be seen. If we weren’t to get them there and then, we would end the week where we were, or lower. The usual mental bargaining “If you see through just 15 more mammoth strokes…” was interrupted by the cox’s voice “OVERLAP, WE’VE GOT A BIG OVERLAP NOW, JUST ….WIND DOWN BOYS, WE’VE GOT IT!” Balliol bump Oriel opposite Longbridges. Cough, splutter, cough cough cheer. The difference between how we looked as we landed on Friday and how we looked as we landed the day before was immediately remarked upon. A bump on Oriel, I said at the time, is worth ten bumps on Exeter or New. Those of us in the boat last Eights Week were happy to put right the mistakes of the Saturday, while those who had started rowing for Balliol just a few months previously knew that bumping Oriel meant we were by our own right (and not just by virtue of the previous crew’s performance) one of the faster boats in Oxford.

With Christ Church, Pembroke, Magdalen and St Catz all rowing over in the top spaces that week, we were the highest crew to put in any bumps. We’d gone from nervous anticipation of whether we’d be able to hack it with the big boys, from a frustration that Torpids only lasted four days, and we only had one more chance to bump. That sentiment was shared by M2 and M3 who, despite being the speediest second and third VIIIs seen in some time, had been robbed of the chance to get trophy blades painted up by the weather at the earlier part of the week. Nevertheless, commitment to training throughout the club shone through on the final day, with M3 bumping Magdalen III at the exit to the gut, M2 bumping Hertford II before the gut (and beating a klaxon by little more than 20 seconds), and of course M1 bumping St. Catz at the top of the gut.

With 9 bumps in total, Balliol Men were more successful than any other club on the river. What’s more, with 17 out of our 24 rowers new to Balliol at the start of Michaelmas this year, things are looking very positive for the next couple of years. Bring on Summer Eights.

Eddie Jacobs

BCBC Men’s Captain ’09-’10

Mens div 1

March 6, 2010 in Torpids 2010


Live From The Field

March 6, 2010 in Torpids 2010

Lmh overbmp new just before finish and that’s it. Over and out.

Live From The Field

March 6, 2010 in Torpids 2010

Magd evade catz to the finish

Live From The Field

March 6, 2010 in Torpids 2010

Hert bmp john’s

Live From The Field

March 6, 2010 in Torpids 2010

Chch comfy past boathouses

Live From The Field

March 6, 2010 in Torpids 2010

Worc bmp new

Live From The Field

March 6, 2010 in Torpids 2010

Worc 1/4 length off new