In terms of ‘age old traditions’, KCLBC can lay claim to quite a few. But from all the odd quirks, rituals, events, going on tour to Cambridge is one of the best, and biggest. This annual pilgrimage is an opportunity for our large cohort of freshers termed beginner’s) to cut their teeth in their first ever race, and an opportunity for the seniors squad to win some silverware. Thats just the racing. For it is here where the newcomers become initiated into the ranks of the old, and the old can relive fresher days. The social aspect is borderline formulaic; this was my fourth tour and the order and places remained the same.This isn’t due to a lack of imagination. It’s because KCLBC adheres to the adage: ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. Or perhaps more accurately, ‘if it looks stupid and it works, it isn’t stupid’.
With 15 crews racing in 5 divisions across an entire day, there was a lot of racing to be done on the Saturday. Less than ideal; having got a 4am coach, and in weather conditions which were less than favourable, with heavy rain and wind prevailing throughout the day, particularly in the final division, where cox and crew alike were punished for being outside. The course is 2.5km long, with two straight sections joined in them middle by a stretch of very curved and narrow corners: which our coxes have fallen foul of many times. The coxes performed excellently on the day, with no boats crashing into the bank (not to say there weren’t incidents, as will be mentioned). In the interest of brevity, I have included a table of results below (as much as I’d like to write a painstaking report on every one of the 15 races). Big congratulations for a spree of wins for the women’s squad, who are developing a history of coming to this Winter Head and laying waste to their opponents. This year was to be no difference; speaking to a women’s squad member after the race, they came in with only one intention: to win the races they put crews into by a large margin. They set about their task with focus, efficiency and and a precise rowing style which they’d been honing for the past few months. The results speak volumes for the current quality of the women’s squad, and promise of even greater results later in the season.
The men’s squad results were marred by two separate incidents; the men’s first 4 narrowly lost the IM3 category as they had to stop mid-race so they wouldn’t smash into the back of 2 women’s 8’s floundering in front (many thanks, RUMs and ICSM). This shambles was only recovered by a massive effort from the crew, driven on by Jasper Cooper who coxed like a man possessed, frothing at the mouth (‘YOU ARE THE HURRICANE, LIGHTNING, THUNDER’ being the highlights). In a separate race, with two men’s novice fours chasing each other down the course, there was a particularly bad incident. Within 30 metres from the line, the two fours crashed into each other, becoming entangled and came to a complete halt, blocking the river and generally causing chaos. This, to be perfectly frank, was pretty embarrassing to say the least. But despite these incidents, the boys raced well, came off the water happy with their rows, even if the numbers betrayed them a little.
A massive well done has to be said to the fresher crews having such a strong start in their rowing careers. 3 8’s of each gender raced at Cambridge, and all rose to the challenge of their first race, doing themselves and KCLBC proud. Hopefully their appetite for the sport has been sufficiently whetted, and they’ll continue to represent their club for many years to come. Soaking wet and with the racing done, tour could finally begin in earnest…
The Social Side
As mentioned, tour isn’t just about racing, with the social aspect of tour being the part that stays with people and brings the club together with its heritage and tradition. Following the races, the club warmed itself in a nearby pub, and as results started rolling in the need for celebrating grew. So we headed for the sports hall where we would be staying, rested awhile, and prepared our costumes. The basic premise of a good Cambridge costume theme is based in a.) being able to tell fresher from senior, and b.) the name of the tour must be an excellent pun on the word ‘gin’ (the cornerstone beverage of any KCLBC social), and this year was no different, with our nefarious social secretaries (Danielle Wilcock and James Gregory) coming up with ‘The Gingle Book’. This entailed the seniors dressing as explorers and the freshers as jungle animals. Bedecked out, we headed into the night to a local curry house, and onto The Regal (the largest Wetherspoons in Europe, the seniors proudly announce). An excellent evening was had by all. This year, unfortunately, one person did go to A&E (he was unavailable for comment at the time of release), due to a ditch-related shoulder dislocation, and I wish him a speedy recovery. The next day the club proceeded through its rituals of breakfast, strolling around Cambridge, and a quiet picnic by the Cam (punting this year not occurring due to weather conditions). After the quiet picnic, the club headed to a final pub stop and an uneventful coach journey home. Another year, another Cambridge. May it stay just as it is, always. KCLBC will return, and I hope many of the freshers of this year will relish the opportunity to return as seniors for the next.