Wolfson College Boat Club, Oxford

Cambridge Winter Head 2014

Men's 4+ competes in Cambridge Winter Head 2014.  Str: Thomas Aarholt, James Simpson, Gido Van de Ven, Jasper Barth.  Cox: Edward Mills

Men’s 4+ competes in Cambridge Winter Head 2014

Wolfson entered a men’s coxed four into the Cambridge Winter Head on Sunday 15th November. Buoyed by a 7:15am start and filled to the brim with service-station coffee, the crew of Thomas Aarholt, James Simpson, Gido van de Ven, Jasper Barth and Edward Mills (cox) arrived in Cambridge ready to show off the fruits of their recent work with Siggi Martinsson, the new senior men’s coach.

In the week beforehand the crew had decided to ‘double up’ on Saturday, racing in both Student (Senior) and British Rowing (IM3) categories: as Thomas had so succinctly put it, “why travel all that way just to race once?”. Nevertheless, the decision was made to approach racing as if their first race were also the last, and it was in this frame of mind that the crew pushed off for their first test of the day, against other IM3 boats.

It was an exciting race. Building to 37 coming off the start and settling at 31, the crew ate into an Essex four ahead of them, making the overtake coming past the Railings (with a full third of the course remaining) in spite of having been given a generous ten-length gap on the start. After digging phenomenally deep in the final 400m, Wolfson was rewarded with a solid second-place finish, behind a Peterhouse four that had been training together for several months and over twenty seconds ahead of the next opposition.

Marshalling for the second race, in the Student category and as part of the final division of the day, was delayed by half an hour after the previous division ran late. The crew managed to keep it together regardless, and started their second 2.6km determined to match the commitment from their previous effort. The marshals kindly allowed an even larger gap between them and the women’s Masters B eight that was starting in front of them, but even they were swiftly reeled in after a pulse-quickening build saw the crew hit 41 through the Motorway Bridge.

Men's 4+ competes in Cambridge Winter Head 2014.  Str: Thomas Aarholt, James Simpson, Gido Van de Ven, Jasper Barth.  Cox: Edward Mills

Men’s 4+ competes in Cambridge Winter Head 2014. Cox: Edward Mills

Some blisteringly quick catches from Jasper in the bow seat made sure that the line around Grassy Corner was razor-sharp (which was particularly pleasing for Edward, who had previously coxed for several years on the Cam before arriving at Wolfson). The tight line effectively took half a length out of the eight, and a massive push onto Plough Reach allowed the Wolfson crew to seal the deal, overtaking on the inside of Ditton Corner and keeping the racing line while the eight went wide. Knowing that they had 1km left to row that day, the boys opened up the taps, rowing down a Downing second eight and moving relentlessly through them under the Railway Bridge. Once they had a straight line to the finish, Thomas in the stroke seat smelt blood and proceeded to lead the crew on as they took down a second Downing eight, with Edward screaming for Downing to “move out! NOW!”. In these frantic final 200 metres, Edward was forced to hold his nerve, as strokeside’s blades came within inches of the narrowboats and bowside’s practically overlapped with Downing. The cries of pain as the boys crossed the line testified to a crew who had given it everything, and the results reflected this: they were once again second in their category, completing the course in 9:27, only a second slower than their earlier time. For context, the Peterhouse four that finished ahead, winning both IM3 and Student Senior categories in 9:03 and 9:04 respectively, posted times that would have won IM2 and IM1 by a full ten seconds.

The four, then, ended the day as the fourth-fastest four on the water and the fastest non-Cambridge four. While obviously there was disappointment not to have come away with pots, it was clear that there was a lot of potential on show, from a crew that can only gain in speed in the coming months.

Edward Mills, 15 Nov 2014


BR IM3 IV+ (Men) [1] Peterhouse BC, 09:05, [2] WOLFSON, 09:26, [3] Kent, 10:09 . . . [6] Essex, 10:25.

Student Senior IV+ (Men) [1] Peterhouse BC, 09:04, [2] WOLFSON, 9:27, [3] KCL BC, 09:29 . . . [9] Magdalene (Cam), 10:36.