The rowing year began for the men’s side with the senior squad training towards the Fairbairn Cup on the river Cam and the novices training towards Christ Church Regatta. Our Fairbairn crew would finish in a respectable 14th place and the first novice crew was unlucky to be knocked out in the third round. The success of the novice programme under the leadership of Ty Rallens (Kellogg, 2012) was evident from the fact that by the middle of Michaelmas a handful of novices were regularly joining senior squad outings, and two would join the First Torpid in Hilary term.
In Hilary term, the men’s squad ran a system of matched eights, with the rowers in competition for the first and second eights training together and entering all three Isis Winter Leagues. Strong results from both crews were early evidence that this would be a successful year. Despite the disappointment of qualifying only two men’s crews for Torpids, the bumps campaign would turn out to be an unprecedented success, with both crews bumping every day to win blades. This is the first time in MCBC history that the First and Second Torpids have won blades in the same year, leaving the First Torpid on bungline six in Division 2 and the Second Torpid on bungline two in Division 5.
At the end of Hilary term, the first boat entered the Head of the River Race for the second year running, this time placing 114th in a time of 19 minutes and 40 seconds. Notably Merton was the fastest of 24 Oxbridge college crews racing that day, besting Trinity, Balliol and Brasenose as well as a host of Cambridge first division crews.
Over the Easter vac, we returned to the Amstel for our second annual training camp. Generous support from College and from our host club Willem III made for an extremely productive week’s training and set up our Trinity term well.
For only the second time in the last 20 years, Merton fielded four men’s crews in Summer Eights, a real achievement that highlights the depth of the club. Overall results were mixed during Eights Week. The Second Eight fell two places, having lost two of their most experienced rowers from Torpids to academic commitments, but put on a sterling performance on Saturday to close on Wolfson II before a klaxon cut the race short.
The First Eight had a disappointing Wednesday of racing, narrowly missing out on catching Mansfield after tactical errors, a crab in the Gut and a klaxon which stopped the division when Mansfield was a mere canvas away. The crew showed real discipline by regrouping to come back and bump Mansfield with composure on Thursday, and caught Worcester in a mere 21 strokes on Friday. The First Eight rounded off the week with a bump on Hertford in the Gut to finish up three places and leave the crew within sight of the first division.
Since the end of Summer Eights the first boat has continued training hard and will attempt to qualify for the Temple Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta on 28 June.
Dylan Gutt (2017)
Men’s Rowing Captain 2018/19