Saturday, March 04, 2006

Lent Bumps

Yes, rowing.

I have to admit, it still at times fills my mind and my world. Or, should I say it IS my world. If Cambridge can be a bubble, rowing is a bubble in Cambridge, and those who take it seriously enough to be in the captaining-coaching-running regattas or boatclubs -circle form a bubble within that. Luckily, I'm only one foot in in the last bubble, but there are still enough bubble layers to keep the real world out of reach.

College rowing in Cambridge has two events above others: Lent Bumps in the end of the Lent term, and May bumps in June. (Please don't ask stupid questions, of course May Bumps are in June, just like May Balls and the May Week. This is Cambridge, remember.)

In this insane form of racing, boats (racing eights, each having 8 rowers and the cox) line up at the bank, start rowing on a cannon shot, and try to catch each other and "bump" them. In each bumps week, there are four races, and if you "bump", you move up one position, and if you get bumped, you move down. A "row over" simply means you rowed through the course without catching anyone and no one caught you. If you bump on all four days, you get "blades", your names painted on an oar and that commemorative blade mounted in a special place in college. Usually in the bar.

So, I've spent my week at the river. mostly in bank crews, pushing boats off and cycling alongside yelling and whistling etc. I did have to row two races, as well, but I was just subbing in our first boat. What I'm really proud of, is our second boat, the one I coach. We started working together in the beginning of last term, and they were complete novices. And I was a complete novice as a coach. And when I look at them now, rowing together as an 8, having a good technique, and winning bumps and other races, I feel a kind of pride I have rarely if ever felt.

First of all, it's different from the kind of feeling of achievement you get when you reach a goal on your own. It's a team effort. But that's not all there is to it, since being a coach is being a special member of the team. I don't feel they won their races because of me, but almost like they did it FOR me. I don't know if it's a really weird way of thinking about it, and I know it's not really all true, since in a rowing crew you work for the crew and yourself, and the coach is simply a facilitator, but it's still a very nice feeling.

Well, now we party a little and celebrate and enjoy these achievements. All those early mornings and cold wind at the river, all the sweat and pain has now paid off and we were rewarded with good results. We take a bit of a breather and then start training for the Mays. And since they luckily aren't in May, we have plenty of time to get ready...

(Picture of this year's Bumps, first day. Copyright Jet Photographic)

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