When we first interviewed Will Downey for the coaching job, he seemed very enthusiastic with a good rowing CV but I kept thinking that he was a little too soft and a little too sophisticated – I needn’t have worried.
We began the year on a recruitment drive to bolster the ranks, we set challenging ambitions and required a large squad to meet these. Throughout Michaelmas term we managed to maintain a robust squad of around 20, training in mixed eights (novices and experienced rowers), for Christchurch regatta. Through erg sessions, all weather conditions and some slightly raucous crew dates at Bombay’s a team capable of great things was forged. Will worked tirelessly to tame raw talent, from cage fighting, sprinting and cycling backgrounds, into a competitive novice 8. Before Christchurch regatta, nerves were at fever-pitch everyone keen to translate their efforts into fruition. The VIII of Antonio (cox), Ollie, Rob, Mike, Wiktor, Kai, Charlie, Andrew and Adam performed excellently leaving everyone in their wake in the early rounds, beating Brasenose with only 7 rowers on their seats and others by 10 or so lengths. However they met their match in the final and narrowly lost to a talented Worcester college crew. After such a hard day’s work, boat club dinner was well appreciated.
After Christmas break, we returned to a punishing training camp to “shock your body” back into rowing with the help of newly-hired Kate Hodgskinson, concluding in 2k testing. Results were outstanding, including the Peterite veteran Andreas Kranke reaching his physical peak aged 31, knocking 15 seconds of his personal best. Results also beg the question: is Kai “The Horse” Horstmanshoff the most powerful man in Oxford college rowing? We continued to endure long sessions to improve our base fitness to act as a building block for creating raw speed for Torpids and beyond. Our 1st test of speed was IWL-D on the Isis. It was a mini-disaster: bags were stolen, the boat almost sank and the final times were incorrect. But ironically, this played to our advantage. Away from the watching eyes of competitors, the 1st VIII was brewing and the opposition still had no data on our improvements. The event was also a great opportunity for our 2 novice coxes to gain valuable experience in steering racing lines. After some cut-throat seat racing, we traveled to City of Bristol Head to showcase the newly selected VIIIs, relying on the accumulated endurance from Radley sessions. The 3,300m course winding through a walled route under several lock-width bridges looked to have been architected by Picasso himself and was a tricky task for the coxes: Una Kim and Antonio Borrelli both stepped up and did brilliantly. The 1st VIII raced first chasing a division 1 Hertford crew. After a show of great determination, Hertford narrowly beat us by 3 seconds using their experience of the course from last year. The 2nd VIII had a stormer overtaking 3 crews on route and winning the novice division and hammering a footplate to pieces in the process. Finally, the scratch 1st IV exceeded expectations coming a close 2nd behind a gelled City of Bristol boat. A great day for Peter’s rowing.
Our ambitions haven’t changed: double blades at both Torpids and eights and qualification for Henley Royal Regatta.
Torpids is approaching, beware: the squirrels are coming!!