New year, new challenges! After the past academic year of rowing was not less than drowned in an endless drizzle, new developments – apparently, there was some kind of virus going around – should see the new rain-induced creativity in our training schedule to be carried over to 20/21. However, the motivation to enjoy the water-time whenever restrictions would allow it may have been higher than ever: The combination of a great amount of experience remaining in the club well mixed with new energy from the novice ranks it turned out to be a fantastic year for rowing in Merton, which is best summed up by sheer excellent performances in Summer torpids.
As customary in Michaelmas term, we focused on those Mertonians new to the college or who are taking a new interest in the sport altogether. Many appreciated the companionship, structure and beautiful sunrises which accompany rowing in an otherwise isolating and chaotic start into the term. And so, it was not twenty, not thirty – but sixty Novices between the women’s and men’s side who gave rowing a go.
Given the precious opportunity of outdoor activities during that time, every effort was made by our novice captains and many additional helpers to safely run a relentless program that saw up to five boats out on a single day and a record-breaking total of 22 confirmed training sessions in week 2.
The initial euphory was soon dampened by what should soon be known as “the second wave” of Covid cases flooding the UK and Oxford, halting all in-person training for Hilary term. Furthermore, cancellations of all novice regattas or Torpids meant that, once more, the experience of an actual boat race was delayed into the foreseeable future. Making the best of the situation (…after all, if there has to be a period without actual outdoor rowing, what better time than the coldest and darkest of the year…), training buddy-ups, regular online circuit-exercises, a virtual training camp and theoretical sessions built the bridge to keep us going over the winter.
With spring it came: Rowing was back and there was “some sort of summer bumps event” in the pipeline. After all, Trinity would be the term to remember. Training back in full force, M1 chopped away the miles at Godstow while M2 found its mojo on the Isis stretch. The Isis Summer League races gave many of us our first race experience as both crews zipped down the Isis in anticipation of the rowing year highlight: Summer Torpids!
In a week of nothing but sunshine, M1 fiercely continued our campaign up the Torpid charts, bumping up the first three days and just about missing Univ M1 on day 4 thus bringing us within reach of division 1. Meanwhile, M2, having seen how it’s done, went to make a statement themselves and won blades despite having to repeatedly bump a boat three places ahead. With all this new energy, it will be exciting to see what the next year is going to deliver.
Paul Zimmer-Harwood, Men’s co-captain 2020-21