Falling in the Cam: Why are so many college rowers capsizing?

More boats have capsized this term than the whole of last year

This Michaelmas term, three Cambridge rowing boats have capsized, amounting to more than the whole of last year. But what has caused this sudden spike in capsizing?


Clare eight capsized on Rowbridge

The first victim of the college capsize was a Clare eight attempting to avoid a houseboat moored on the side of the Cam. Clare novices capsized on Tuesday 24th October, and their boat even managed to end up in the middle of the river. According to Rowbridge, the Clare boat was the first eight to capsize in the last five years.

This was shortly followed by a Jesus eight on Wednesday 25th October, which was, unfortunately for the novices, captured on video and uploaded to YouTube.

Jesus eight capsized on JC at JCBC Youtube

Though there were no photos, a Clare Hall four also capsized, with confusion on Rowbridge as to whether it was Clare or Clare Hall taking a dip. This happened on Saturday 28th October, only three days after the last boat.

By this point a new record for the number of boats capsized recently had been set, but the boaties of Cambridge were not done there. On Tuesday 7th November, Fitzwilliam’s novice eight also capsized, taking the total to four.

Fitzwilliam eight capsized on Rowbridge

This is a very unusual amount of capsizes, especially as eights are notoriously hard to overturn – many novices are told it is impossible. So what could be causing this chaos this Michaelmas?

A combination of poor weather conditions and yellow flags (which prevent lower boats going out) mean the novices have had significantly fewer outings than average in the first half of Michaelmas.

With weather making it harder to row, and longer gaps between outings, it is no wonder that learning to row has been a little more soggy.

Proofreading and Feature Image Credits: Mark Wong

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