The strength of the Merton women’s squad continues to grow year on year. Michaelmas saw a lucky windfall of keen novice rowers who have proved very enthusiastic members of the boat club. Through their hard work, and the support of senior rowers and our coach, who committed themselves to running a demanding novice training programme, the women’s novice boat finished fourth in Christchurch Regatta, continuing a solid run after last year’s victory. With this behind them, it looked to be an exciting year for women’s rowing, with the development squad making progress on the water at Godstow. At the end of the term, four of the dev squad made the trip to Cambridge to compete in the Fairbairn Cup, a long 3.4km race down the Cam.
It was testament to the commitment of the squad and the invaluable help of committee members that we were able to make it through a tough Hilary term, during which bad weather and illness cancelled weeks’ worth of outings. Come Torpids, however, W1 and W2 were looking impressive, putting in some very decent performances during that term’s Isis Winter League races. Indeed, so much so, that the local rumour mills put W1 on ‘blades watch’ for Torpids. Sadly, it was not to be, as bitter cold, wind and snow cancelled racing on the second and third days of racing, leaving the crew heartily disappointed. An unfortunate race left W2 with one bump on the first day, but W1 were at least proud to come away with bumps on Queen’s and Wadham II.
On such a trajectory, it was fantastic to be able to keep up the momentum among the squad on the first training camp that Merton has seen in a number of years. Travelling to Amsterdam, eight rowers and a cox were worked hard with three outings a day for five days on the gorgeous Amstel river. Such an opportunity to row together, with fresh coaching in a new environment, meant the crew developed well together ahead of the Eights campaign.
Trinity rowing saw W1 return to Godstow and, alongside the gleaming new launch, dedicate themselves to five outings a week. Another run of illness saw the crew cycle through rowers at an alarming rate, finally finding a crew the weekend before Summer Eights began. The infamous four-year spoons streak loomed large over the crew, but they were quietly confident having made great improvements in technique all term. Impressive commitment from all ensured that W1 did indeed break with tradition, finishing the week on -3 (rather than -4) thanks to a lucky escape from St Anthony’s on the second day, as they took a course into the bank in the Gut. If that wasn’t enough cause for celebration, W2 put in an even stronger show. Having struggled to put together a crew for outings all term, they rowed remarkably well to bump Green Templeton III, Somerville III and Pembroke IV.
It has been a pleasure to see Merton women’s rowing continue to progress and we look forward to another exciting season next year. Thanks should definitely go to the whole MCBC committee for their work and especially to our coach, Ian Smith. Matilde Soares da Silva (2017) has proven an exceptionally committed member of the squad and as the incoming captain I’m sure she’ll do great things for the women’s side.