The 2017-18 season has seen Merton’s men’s side reaffirm itself on the river as a force to be reckoned with.
Starting the year with a large intake of novice rowers, several talented new coxes and a varied group of returning rowers, it quickly became apparent that we had the potential for a successful year. The arrival of a new men’s coach and the opening of a brand new erg room in the Sports Pavilion gave us the impetus to train hard both on and off the water. Although our Christ Church Regatta novices, despite some exciting and hard-fought races, did not get as far as they had hoped, the development squad obtained promising results at a number of smaller races on the Isis.
The squad continued to progress week after week despite the cold mornings and sometimes challenging river conditions. The arrival of a gorgeous Fillippi F42 shell, the Joanna Howard, and a brand new coaching launch – acquired through generous donations from our American friends and alumni – gave the squad an extra edge going into the final stages of preparation for Torpids. The shell was named for Joanna (1987) who Captained the Women’s First Eight in 1989, the first year they won blades. Unfortunately, cold weather caused several race days to be cancelled. Still, M1 kept its place in Division 2 despite a very strong Exeter coming up from behind; M2 bumped in less than 20 strokes on day 1 and would surely have got blades had it been able to race; and M3 also swiftly bumped on day 1 after achieving the fastest finish time at Rowing On.
In preparation for Summer Eights, a group of men’s rowers travelled to Amsterdam for an Easter training camp. Spending a week rowing on the beautiful Amstel River, cycling through the city centre, and sleeping on a cosy sailing ship wasn’t only incredibly fun, but it also had an immediate effect on the quality of rowing in the squad. Coming back to a newly refurbished Harry Quick shell at the start of Trinity term, M2 was able to make the most of its training on the Isis, while M1 continued to perfect its technique at Godstow. With three men’s crews entered for Summer Eights, including an M3 containing several recent alumni, our hopes for success were high…
Unfortunately, the first day took away the possibility of blades for either crew: M3 was caught in the Gut by a strong Corpus M2, M1 saw its competitors bumping out and had to creatively manoeuvre its way to a row over, and M2 suffered a spectacular crash under Donny Bridge, sending shockwaves around social media. Nevertheless, Merton showed its resilience and determination from here onwards. On every one of the following days, both M1 and M2 bumped before the green banks, finishing in the middle of the second and fourth divisions respectively. Meanwhile, M3 vigorously defended its place at the top of the last division, claiming a bump on day 2. With a net score of +3, it is safe to say that it was a successful Summer Eights for MCBC.
Over the course of the year, the Boat Club also achieved notable results further downstream of the Isis stretch, participating in a number of external regattas. Last summer, a Merton delegation won BR points at both Henley Town & Visitors’ Regatta and at Maidenhead Regatta. In Michaelmas, a men’s four competed in Cambridge’s Fairbairn Cup, clocking the fastest time among all Oxford colleges. Last but not least, a men’s eight participated in the Head of the River Race on the Tideway, where it overtook five crews and finished 119th, our highest place in recent history.
Overall, this year’s achievements are testament to the depth and enthusiasm we currently have in MCBC’s men’s squad. With Dylan Gutt (2017) and Mantas Abazorius (2013) taking over as Captains next year, we can be certain that the Boat Club will continue to go from strength to strength!
Samuel Picard (2015)
Men’s Rowing Captain 2017-18