BNCBC 2021/22 Report

After two seasons blighted by floods and the pandemic, rowers at BNCBC were looking forward to a return to the regular schedule of novice training in Michaelmas, Torpids in Hilary and Summer Eights in Trinity.

We began the season with our first training camp since January 2020 on the lake at Eton Dorney, giving us the chance to go back to basics after a hectic push to train up a novice intake to bumps standard in the course of Trinity Term. Soon after, assistant coach William Stewart’s rowing prowess was recognised by the British national squad, leaving us without a coach, as previous coaches Harry and Enya Lyons moved on to take new roles elsewhere. Fortunately, we were able to appoint Tim Halliday for his first season coaching on the Isis, having been in charge of the Nottingham University intermediate women’s squad prior to the pandemic.

Despite the typically unpleasant rowing conditions Oxford offers in Michaelmas, the novice intake was strong this year, with two rookie crews putting in strong performances in Christ Church Regatta. Senior crews continued to train from Godstow, in anticipation of incorporating the new intake to the crews for the following term’s Torpids.

It was up to captains Ella Shalom and Helen Robertson to lead the Women’s First and Second Torpids respectively through the campaign. A largely unchanged W1 from Summer Torpids reaped the rewards of their hard work on the water, bumping an amazing four times across the four days, with the last bump right in front of a strong crowd outside BNC boathouse. This performance puts them 15th on the river, their highest ranking since 1998. The Women’s Second Torpid fared less well with an inexperienced crew, but the week provided a valuable platform for their highly successful Summer Eights campaign. More on that later.

The Men’s First Torpid, under the leadership of Ewan Gordon, were aiming to avoid the dubious honour of being the first crew in recent times to be bumped on six consecutive days (across campaigns), after Lincoln caught them on day one. This fate was narrowly avoided, chasing down Corpus, and ending the week -2. Josh Greig’s M2 offered mixed performances throughout the week, with some exhilarating bumps and being on the receiving end of some punishing displays from other crews. Adverse weather conditions throughout the week from the tail end of Storms Dudley, Eunice, and Franklin, gave Captain of Coxes Molly Abella the challenge of finding suitably qualified coxes for all the races, admirably taking on a lot of the burden herself.

Meanwhile, Brasenose’s Jack Tottem was occupied at Wallingford, coxing OUBC crews. His tenacity and skill in the coxing seat, along with impressive performances in warm-up pieces against Leander and OBUBC led to his selection for the Men’s Blue Boat for the 167th boat Race. A strong BNC contingent amassed in the fan zone in Furnivall Gardens to see the Oxford crew beat their Cambridge counterparts by 2 ¼ lengths, in no small part thanks to Jack’s tight and aggressive coxing.

Over the Easter break, we took advantage of the quieter river by holding a training camp in Oxford to aid the selection of crews for the fast-approaching Summer Eights. While the captains worked with Tim and new assistant coach Chris Ray to finalise crews for bumps, others on committee worked with Bowman Fund trustees and the college’s Alumni Relations and Development Office to run a successful alumni dinner, for the first time since 2019. Around 50 alumni joined students and representatives from Brasenose for a dinner in Hall, with some taking up the chance to get back in a boat and take part in some bumps style racing in fours before the dinner. Guest of honour was Howard Brodie, whose very generous donation to the club has allowed us to upgrade our fleet for next year and refurbish the boat bay.

Under the same captains, three men’s and two women’s crews entered the first Summer Eights since 2019. Ewan coached a fledgling beer boat up to bumps standard in an impressively short time span, reiterating the message that the club is open to anyone of any ability. Their strong showing in qualifying meant they raced some much more experienced crews, and despite gutsy performances they ended the week -3.

The other men’s Eights fared much better. M1’s position in the divisions meant that they rowed seven times across the four days, seeing off threats from all challenger crews and bumping once. Meanwhile, M2 achieved the unthinkable and ended the week above where they started, bumping neighbours Exeter M2, a fitting tribute to the work they’ve put in as a crew throughout the year.

A new-look W1 faced tough competition around them after a strong performance in 2019 propelled them high up the Eights charts, and unfortunately weren’t able to replicate their outstanding Torpids performance. W2 qualified third fastest in Rowing On, and showed their strength by bumping on the first day. The next two days saw early klaxons in their divisions, meaning they weren’t able to bump either day. However, day four told a different story, with the crew bumping an astonishing four times in a day to end the week +6 (including a penalty bump), and returning the crew to fixed rowing divisions.

After the dust had settled from Eights, former captain Raviv Shtaingos contacted us to donate his single scull, which we have gladly received and are looking forward to road testing next year.

Throughout the year, I’ve been lucky to have the support of a committee which has pulled together to put the club in a strong position going forward. In particular, I’d like to thank Treasurer Tom Haygarth and Vice-President Benedict Griffin for their dedication to the club and advice on all aspects of the boat club. I’m very proud of the progress the club has made throughout the year, with all crews having the chance to show off their ability and jump up in the bumps charts. I have no doubt that the new leadership, with Ella taking on the presidency, will keep this year’s momentum going, and we’re all looking forward to getting back on the river in Michaelmas.

Joe Cary, BNCBC President 2021-22