Queens’ Ergs: Pushing Rowers To The Limit

ROWING: JONATHAN FURHRMANN sees rowers getting very sweaty as they compete in the annual Queens’ Ergs .

Anglia ruskin rowing Caius rowing christ's rowing Clare Novices' Regatta Dowing Rowing Emma Sprints pembroke rowing pumping music queens' ergs St Catharine's rowing sweat

The second biggest indoor rowing competition in the UK, bettered only by the national championships (BIRC), saw novice crews pitted against each other in a frantic 8x500m relay event.

Queens’ Ergs is renowned for the stifling heat, pumping music and electric atmosphere in the hall, and this year did not disappoint. The ergs were arranged in two semicircles in a break with the traditional two lines – not that this really matters, with crews and supporters surrounding and screaming at each rower so that they would struggle to be aware of anything but their own screen and a general blur of noise.

On the men’s side, Anglia Ruskin’s novices managed to continue a series of strong performances in recent years, winning the final convincingly. After a disappointing result in Mays, when they went down three, Anglia Ruskin will be hopeful to turn the tide this year – if, indeed, their rowers are actually novices rather than rugby players drafted in to win Queens’ Ergs.

This practice is rumoured to be common among some colleges, although evidence is lacking. But the fastest novice time was posted by an actual novice rower: Tom Hudson from Jesus produced a blistering 1:22, in the final heat after a very similar performance in his crew’s first race.

Jesus’ Matt Hudsom pumped out a blistering 1.22 in the final

The noise in the novice women’s final was quite deafening – having not been in the hall for a women’s heat before, your faithful author’s eardrums struggled to cope with the significantly higher pitch of the cheering. A close final was won by the Catz novices with a strong average of 1:50,58, pipping Caius by just over half a second per rower. Downing’s women took in third place, just over three seconds per rower behind Caius.

Catz set the pace in the women’s competition

The senior event, introduced by Queens’ last year in a step that must made many a nostalgic boatie very happy, pits mixed crews against each other. Generally, the variance of the four girls’ scores is higher than that of the boys so that they can play a pivotal role in winning this event.

Pembroke, led off by Cam legend Matt Castle with a time that just pipped Matt Hudson’s winning novice score, beat Christ’s in a photo finish (if there is such a thing in indoor rowing!) Christ’s anchor Mark Lawrence got pipped to it at the post, leaving Christ’s to finish some 0.2 seconds per rower too slower than the Pembroke team.

With Queens’ Ergs out of the way, the novice racing calendar is set to fill up as the end of term draws close, with Clare Novices’ Regatta and fancy-dress Emma Sprints always being good candidates for carnage, comedy and the occasional capsize (and invaluable racing experience, of course).

Photos by Dave Pattinson