In a devastating display of talent, NUBC unexpectedly won a double gold for the Senior Men’s squad at BUCS Regatta, signalling the start of a series of record-breaking achievements, and delivering a hammer blow to opponents who were left looking dazed and confused.
Not only did the Men’s 1st 8 manage to retain their title of Championship 8s, won for the first time only the year before, but the 2nd 8 also managed to push the boundaries of NUBC achievement by winning their category for the first time ever.
The day got off to an inauspicious start with the news that the novice events for the day had been cancelled due to poor weather. This came as a crushing disappointment to the Novice Men, who had been hoping to race their coxed four, news made only worse by the fact that the actual weather was significantly better than had been forecast.
However, the gloom started to lift with a series of strong performances from the Women’s Squad. Although the Intermediate Quad narrowly lost out on a medal, coming 4th by half a length, both the A and B intermediate pairs reached the final, with the A pair finishing in bronze medal position – having been pipped on the line to the silver position by Durham by just 0.1 seconds. The Championship Women’s pair also won bronze, earning the club its first BUCS points of the weekend. An even better performance came from the lightweight women’s double, who managed to trounce the traditional competition of Durham and Reading, and achieved a Silver medal.
But the true stars of the show on Saturday were the Men’s 8s, who put months of training to the test and came up strong. Both the 1st and 2nd 8 won their heats with grace and aplomb, proceeding directly to their final. While it may have looked a perilous situation at the 1K mark for the 2nd 8, sitting 1 second down on Oxford Brookes, their class and finesse shined through, letting them walk away from their rivals to cross the line a relaxed 4 seconds ahead. The 1st 8 decided that it had no time for such frippery and set the agenda by being a cool 2 seconds ahead of their opposition after only 500 metres, and up by over 10 seconds at the finish line.
After these impressive outings, both eights retired to the comfort of their hotels to wait out the next 5 hours, feasting on a diet of caffeine gel, protein shakes and optimistic pep-talks. Clearly, this paid dividend as what followed will surely be talked about at great length and retold endlessly in alumni dinners and parents’ evenings.
With the hopes of an expectant club behind them, the 2nd 8 boated first and headed to the start. This journey up was not without incident however, as rivals from Durham University had somehow got it into their heads that by saying their club name at every waking moment and imitating the crowing of chickens their boat would somehow gain extra speed. This philosophy was not to the approval of the race umpires, who took such a dim view of Durham’s rumbustious behaviour that they ordered a restart of the race roll call.
When the race eventually started, it became apparent that Durham’s tactics had paid off – just not for them. The 2nd 8 were half a length up on them by the 500m mark, and although Oxford Brookes were ahead at this point, the pain of having to race four times in one day came back to haunt Brookes – who swiftly burnt out and fell by the wayside.
Both Newcastle and Durham sped past Brookes, and with 500m to go the 2nd 8 sat 4 seconds up on Durham in 2nd place.
So confident of success were the 2nd 8 that they decided to ease off and save themselves for the victory celebrations – allowing Durham to close a second by the finish line. But this was proved an entirely academic consideration, as the 2nd 8 crossed the line as winners for the first time in the club’s history. The excitement of the moment swept up all the crew, and so overwhelmed Will Sadler (in the 6 seat) that he caught a crab and was knocked off his feet.
Yet this proved a fleeting incident, for as the 2nd 8 spun on to the medals stage, a happy sight confronted them – Newcastle’s 1st 8 was also striding to victory. Having led from the start, and a cool 4.5 seconds up on their next opposition after 1500m, the 1st 8 shifted down a gear into exhibition mode and rowed across the line as champions for an unprecedented second year in a row. The celebrations were just as intense, with strokeman George Rossiter leaping to his feet (his blade soaring wildly into the air) to the cheers of the 2nd 8 from across the lake.
Having received their medals, both crews turned to head back to the hotel, tired but very happy – but not before both coxes had been flung in the lake.