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Meet the Athletes: Lent Bumps 2018

Once again we find ourselves at that point in term when College boat clubs battle it out for head of the river in the annual Lent Bumps.

Kit Smart caught up with three rowers to find out more about what it takes to be one of the strongest boat clubs on the river. Stijn de Graaf (2014) is overall Captain this year, John Hughes (2015) is the M1 cox and Men’s Captain, and Jonathan Vibhishanan (2016) is a rower in M1 and the Cambridge University Lightweight squad. Both John and Jonathan started rowing at Pembroke and quickly made their way up to senior boats. This is not unusual at Pembroke:

Once you’ve tried it a few times there’s something about it that you can’t really shake.”

Stijn: “In Pembroke most people start rowing here. The university boat clubs don’t do a lot of athlete development. They take accomplished athletes and make them elite athletes, turning them into exceptional rowers. The women’s side does more… but Colleges play the biggest role in developing athletes from the start.”


W3 at Pembroke Regatta, February 2018

John: “It’s been an incredible experience. I started rowing in my first year. I was a novice rower in NM1 [the first Novice men’s boat).  I went down into M4 for Lents, and we didn’t have many outings. That year the club was really short on coxes, which is one of the reasons we weren’t getting outings and M3 was struggling too. I was always on the edge of starting to cox, so I started coxing M3 in my third term, we got blades in summer, and I was really keen to carry on after that. I went straight to M1 the next year in Michaelmas and it’s been a lot of fun.”

Jonathan: “A lot of people want to come and give it a go, and a lot of people find it quite addictive. Once you’ve tried it a few times there’s something about it that you can’t really shake.”

And having around 80 people sign up every year makes for a big boat club; there are currently five women’s boats, thanks to our visiting Spring Semester students.  And all the boats are doing well; M2 won the Newnham Short course, while M3 and W3 won their divisions at the Pembroke Regatta. In December last year, themen’s first boat won a Fairbairns event for the first time in 13 years, and W2 reached sixth position despite there not being a W2 boat the previous year.  But Bumps is what they’ve been working towards, so what’s it all about?

Lents 2017

Lents 2017

“To make your way to the top it takes several years of progress.”

Stijn: “It’s the fun, interesting way to race that the Cam can offer. Head races are fantastic but they’re not the same as side-by-side races where you can see your opponent, and bumps just adds another element to that. You get so involved in the College spirit and trying to catch other College crews, and you know that around you there are other boats trying to do the same thing. I think that’s what Bumps is about. It’s about becoming the most gelled crew on the river.”

John: “There’s nothing more satisfying than making physical contact with the boat ahead of you. But also it can lead to quite a lot of carnage on the river! As cox you have to keep safety in mind the whole time, you have to be on it. You have to make sure you don’t damage other boats, and clear the river as soon as possible after a bump so other crews can come past. You’ve got to stay on it as a cox, it’s not just about being motivating and giving technical calls, you have to be as safe as possible.”

Stijn: “What’s interesting about Lents and Mays is that it’s a long-term project. How you perform one year really affects your performance the next year.  If you have a bad year the next year you start a lot lower down. To make your way to the top it takes several years of progress.”

Cambridge Lent Bumps Pembroke

Lents 2017

For more information on Bumps visit the CUCBC website:

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