Alex Jackman: Week 2

In his second column, ALEX JACKMAN wants to talk to you about something close to his heart. We’d give your more info if we were only sure it wouldn’t stop you from reading it.

Alex Jackman BCD Big Deal bumps camfm lycra m2 Massive Ahmad NM3 Rowing satire Sex Silly IV Sport the tab week 2 wetabix

The Tab is on fire at the moment, isn’t it?

It’s only week 2 and there’s already been 60 articles of sport, satire, sex and sarcastic advice to freshers.  Rather than find a new topic, this week I’m covering satire and sport. I can’t really offer my experiences as sarcastic advice; my abiding memory of first year is the back of someone’s head zooming towards me. And given the sport in question, sex will not feature. Trigger warning: this column is about rowing.

Rowing isn’t terrible. By all means, do a single term to say you’ve rowed at Cambridge. Try the food (Malt loaf. Pasta.), learn the language, buy a 60 quid lycra unisuit and wear it to the library to try and be funny then get asked politely to shut up and leave by irate law students.


But be careful. Rowers need mental fortitude not just to deal with freezing mornings and hideous pain (figure 2), but because rowing is the least creative sport possible. You can’t waggle your blade around inventively. Rowers can’t outwit other rowers to win. I once had to tell off a novice for holding his oar the wrong way around, and I saw the innocent, creative spark that had fuelled this wonderful interpretation of the sport leave his eyes forever. I felt evil.

Pain. Face mine, body not so much

I expressed myself in the boathouse by making playlists for our rowing machine workouts. This only led to the shame of seeing other crew members pass out rather than endure another dubstep remix.

Ah, well. At least it’s not CamFM (Sorry, Tim. My friends told me to try and assert myself as the alpha columnist. I’m not totally comfortable with it). I also protested oppressive scheduling by turning up late, covered in Weetabix. In response, our captain Big Deal (figure 3) moved the start time to 5.45am and started charging 10p a minute for tardiness. I racked up £10 in fines in about 6 weeks, but my point was made.

See those shades? My lie-ins paid for those.

The crew I taught to row last year were proof that training makes rowing dull. I give you the lovably chaotic Fitz NM3, the third novice mens’ boat, and their profoundly disorganised coach. NM3 had 7 rowers for most of the term (this is unconventional). Our cox had toast thrown at him by an angry bargee. One guy kept turning up to row in chinos. We only did [THE LEGALLY REQUIRED MINIMUM NUMBER OF] outings. Once, I decided to make them all let go of their oars at the same time because I thought this would teach them about stability. It did.

We were the laughing stock of the club. But by barely rowing at all we had fun, which gave us spirit, which meant we accidentally got the best results out of all our crews.

Pride. Passion. Victory. Fitz NM3

Sadly, I was later dropped from our senior first boat to M2. I’m not bitter. After all, this wasn’t because I was slow, lazy, uncommitted, often dozed off during morning sessions or moaned the rest of the time. I can only think it was for my unacceptable view that rowing should be fun, and preferably easy.

FINE THEN, I thought, I DON’T NEED ROWING. I’ll do other stuff next year (hi). And when I’m having a snooze, or a casual brunch on Saturdays, I’ll be sure to think of the ongoing suffering of boaties everywhere.

And I’ll try not to think about the team, the guys, “Silly IV”. I’ll try not to miss the camaraderie. I’ll try not to look wistfully at the T-shirts my novice crew made for me and my co-coach Massive Ahmad  – “Keep Calm and Let Go of Your Oars”. I’ll try to forget that great BCD when we’d just spooned*, where we drank in time with stroke and haunted the buttery with our chanting. We were M2, super M2, no-one liked us, we didn’t care.


*Been bumped1 every day.
1Hit from behind by another boat in a Bumps race2
2Do you even row here?