“Come on Cambridge!” “Get out of the rough water!” “They’re sinking!”I was shouting this whilst watching the women’s University Boat Race on TV on Easter Sunday.
he appalling weather was causing mayhem and the desperate Cambridge ladies were taking onso much water they were in serious dan ger of disappearing, into the murky depths of the Thames.
I can’t think of a year when I haven’t watched The Boat Race and now that the women’s race is on the same stretch of river and televised to boot, this makes it even more of a draw.
You wouldn’t think it, knowing my lack of sporting prowess, but I used to row. I did it for a year, when I was a student at Cambridge. My dad had been a rower and he couldn’t believe it when, in my first week at Emmanuel College, I told him I had joined the Boat Club.
To be fair, it was more for the social benefits. It seemed to be the thing to do to make friends and the male rowers did look awfully fetching in their shorts and wellies.
A few weeks in, after regular early morning cycle rides down to the towpath, in the rain and fog, I was having serious doubts as to my aptitude for the sport. The lack of any muscle tone didn’t help, nor my inability to swim very well if anything went wrong.
But I kept at it and by the end of term I was in the stroke position in a ladies’ eight. It was my job to set the rhythm for the crew, under the direction of the cox sitting directly in front of me. I rather liked this, though my aim seemed to be to create an elegant, balletic formation rather than a force to be reckoned with.
By the end of the following term we were moved around a bit and I was sitting in position 4 which, in rowing parlance, should have made me part of the ‘engine room ‘ or ‘power house’. Considering I was about 8 stone at the time, this didn’t say much for our chances in the forthcoming Lent Bumps, that peculiar Cambridge tradition of racing where each boat has to catch up and ‘bump’the boat in front.
The Emmanuel Ladies second team set off on the first day of the Bumps and were unsurprisingly caught very quickly which meant we had to swap places with the victor on the following day. After the fourth and final day, having been bumped on each occasion, we finished in last place.
This sorry state of affairs was all the more embarrassing as the league tables were shown on the sports pages of The Times and there was my team, right at the bottom, with a diagonal line, pointing very obviously downwards.
I expect it took a good many years for the Emmanuel Ladies to pull back from that shameful position and for that I do apologise.
I tried badminton the following year.
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