Hardy’s Boat Race Diary: Week 2

Follow the build up to the Boat Race with Hardy Cubasch’s blog exclusively on The Tab.

blues rowing boat race Cambridge rowing college rowing cubasch Rowing

Keep up to date with the Light Blues’ preparations for the Boat Race with Hardy Cubasch’s blog exclusively on The Tab.

Putney to Mortlake. 4 miles 374 yards. Race record 16:19. Mastering this stretch of water is what the entire Boat Race season is dedicated to. On Saturday April 3 at 16:30, nine Cambridge students will align alongside nine of their rivals from Oxford. It is too late to ask questions, too late for last minute preparations. Anxiety, nerves and sometimes even fear will try and creep into an athlete’s mind.

There are 250,000 thousand spectators along the banks, 7.5 million UK viewers in front of their television screens and a further 40 million watching from overseas. Choppers hover overhead, a fleet of spectator craft eagerly await behind. There are only two outcomes, win or lose.

This is the picture every President of the CUBC paints from day one of each new season. Every session of every day must count, no stone can be left unturned. In a race of two boats, one mistake can sometimes end a dream. For this reason, countless hours are spent addressing every single aspect of what makes an individual and a crew go fast. Weights, ergos (indoor rowing machines), diet, sport science and psychology are just a few areas alongside actual in-boat-training that will help maximize your strength, technique and fitness.

A typical weekend morning at Ely

The season may appear long at first but as race day approaches the year feels as though it has actually flown by. The importance of this is highlighted from day one. The morning after the President’s first address every trialist lines up for a 2km erg test. There is no hiding here, a computer screen displays your output on every stroke and everyone knows around a quarter of those in the room will be cut almost immediately. A lot of the guys have spent a large part of the summer training to ensure they put in a top performance from the start. This year has seen some of the best results in recent times with Deaglan McKitchen leading the way with a time of 5:52.

After this first trial, those remaining commence a two week training camp before the start of Michaelmas Term. This is a combination of rowing and cross training. However this year also had an added surprise: a trip to the Royal Marines Commando Training Centre in Lympstone. Their goal: To put the squad through some of the toughest physical challenges we had ever endured. Between afternoon long endurance assault courses, underwater pool sessions designed to maximize oxygen deprivation and shocking one on one physical sessions in the middle of the night, everyone was tested to their limit. The experience was an all too clear vision of just how tough things will have to be in order to outclass the Dark Blue crew on April 3.

Through Michaelmas Term a fine line is taken between attempting to balance the demands of training with the academic workload DoS’s and Supervisors impose. Most find a way, some better than others and those on more challenging courses are certainly fighting for survival come Christmas. The last few weeks of the year finish with a 5km ergo time trial and a training camp in London.

After a week off for Christmas, the group heads to Spain on January 1. Although it may sound like a great place to be, the squad is filled with nerves. For this is the camp when many tough decisions are made. Ten days of racing, man against man, friend against friend, in order to rank athletes from top to bottom. This isn’t the final selection but goes a long way to showing who the top guys in the squad are and a large majority of the top eight from this camp will comprise the Light Blue Boat that will be chosen to take on Oxford.

The squad is now back into the full routine of Lent Term, attempting to juggle academic and rowing life once again. Today we load the buses and head to London for two days of training and also race the Quintin Head. Two even crews have been selected and it is another chance for people to prove their ability. The race is a little over half the Boat Race course, starting at Hammersmith Bridge and finishing just before Chiswick Bridge. Each outing allowing us another opportunity to hone our skills for the big day in 9 weeks time.

63 days to go…