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01st March 2009

Exeter Women earn Blades at Torpids 2009

Written by Meredith Riedel

The annual winter bumps races this year were the most successful ever for Exeter women’s rowing. The W1 rose inexorably from third in Div II to tenth in Div I, bumping up in every single race for a total of five bumps in four days. The W2 also got five bumps, moving from ninth to fourth position in Div IV. Exeter was the top-performing women’s boat club in Oxford this year: every time an Exeter women’s crew raced in Torpids 2009, they brought home a bump. No other women’s boat club this year was able to achieve the same.

The achievement of the W1 is historic; never before has an Exeter women’s crew been in Division I and they made their debut in fine style, achieving bumps in all three of their Div I races. With Ruth Barber in the cox seat they caught Hertford just coming out of the gut within sight of the boathouse, while Thursday provided a ‘boathouse bump’ on high-powered Balliol, moving the Exeter W1 into Div I the same afternoon, where they quickly bumped Wadham before Donnington Bridge. On Friday, coxed by veteran Mike Floyd, the speed of the Lady Galadriel crew was proven yet again as Exeter bumped Merton in less than 60 seconds. On Saturday they were prepared for a longer row, but Pembroke failed to put up much of a fight and the Exeter crew with cox Mike Floyd in classic form bumped them in two short but aggressively powerful minutes to win Div I blades for the first time in Exeter Boat Club history. Not once did the crew have to empty the tank, which bodes well for future races.

The fastest W1 in Exeter’s history was stroked by captain Jess Houlgrave (2nd year, E&M) with the unflappable Rachel Harland (1st year, DPhil, Modern Languages and Literature) in the 7 seat. The engine room was powered by Katherine LaFrance (3rd year DPhil, Byzantine Studies) at 6, Sarah ‘the Guns’ Livermore (1st year DPhil, Particle Physics) at 5, Meredith Riedel (4th year DPhil, Byzantine History) at 4, and the powerful Emily Rockett (Williams exchange student) at 3. Abi ‘Never Say Die’ Dickens (2nd year, Law) and the deceptively strong Frances Rose (2nd year, Modern Languages) were the formidable bow pair. The crew would like to acknowledge the extraordinary privilege of rowing in a brand-new bright red Stämpfli shell, recently provided by the generous donation of an Old Member. The Lady Galadriel is not only gorgeous but light and stiff, so when the crew puts down power, the boat springs up like a striking cheetah.

Enormous credit goes to volunteer coach Lynch ‘the Lioness’ Mason for her technical expertise, inspiring sense of humour, and great encouragement. The crew is also grateful for the support of novice cox Sami Husain (1st year, Physics) who trained with the W1 all term, despite being barred from coxing at Torpids when OURCS disallowed all novice coxes for the regatta due to high river levels. He will be coxing the red-hot Lady Galadriel at the Eights Head on March 7 in London.

With the election of Jess Houlgrave to Exeter College Boat Club President (effective TT09), the W1 anticipates even greater success as they compete in more national regattas this spring and seek to do even greater damage to the unfortunate crews ahead of them at Summer Eights this May.

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