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No Spain, no gain

In a new annual tradition, Pembroke College Boat Club heads to Spain each January for an intense training camp.

Following her recent article on rowing for The Telegraph, Charlotte Chorley (2012) reveals what really happened in Seville this January, with photos by Helena Roy (2013).


Following the resounding success of last year’s inaugural rowing trip to Seville, the beautiful River Guadalquivir was once again dominated by martlet-spotted Lycra and dreams of getting blades as PCBC took a squad of enthusiastic rowers to start the Lent Bumps campaign early and ferociously.

Waving goodbye to the frosted tips of Cambridge early in January, the chosen few were soon transported to sunny Spain where vast expanses of water and even vaster expanses of carbs became the training ground for some serious workouts.

Two heavy rowing sessions, covering around 20km each time, were the orders of the day. Starting earlier than the sun itself, each morning the crews dragged themselves out of bed and onto the river for technical power outings under the watchful eyes of the coaches. Compared to the bends and banks of the River Cam, the Guadalquivir was a blessing. With flat water and enough room to fit about fifteen boats side by side, it made rowing a somewhat blissful experience. Well, aside from the blisters that soon destroyed the palms of even the most resilient warrior. Indeed, by the second day, groans and aches quickly began to materialise, and the dinner table became a site to compare the war wounds of the day. A specific mention should be given to Emma Carter whose hands were effectively taped to the blade by the end of the week, but who, nevertheless, continued to push through the campaign to victory.


The men’s and women’s sides were split into first and second boats, and sporadically throughout the week, were pitted side by side in gruelling race pieces. Over the course of the week itself, it became evident that all the crews were improving at an impressive rate. The women’s second boat, stroked by the calming influence of fresher Alice Limb, had a phenomenal transformation over the short time we were in Spain so that, on the final day, they gave the women’s first boat a run for their money (and egos) during a final 2km race piece. The men’s side were equally impressive. Despite injuries and moaning, Liam Downes stroked the first boat to glory on numerous occasions. But the second boat held them off in the races on the final day with brute strength and sheer determination.

Of course, we did have some time off. But, like true boaties, this was spent on the moat of the Plaza de España competing in ‘Sumps’ – or ‘Seville Bumps’. In teams of three or four, members of PCBC raced in paddle boats around the Plaza, all keen to covet the title of ‘Sumps’ winners.


Sangria flowed and James Bond theme tunes emanated around the quaint city of Seville as crews bonded and memories were formed. Returning to the cold, rainy soil of England felt like a bitter slap across the face, but PCBC returned a more optimistic – not to mention toned and tanned – crew.

This is our time. After what may be considered by some to be a disappointing May Bumps campaign, PCBC is most definitely ready to reclaim victory. Under the new management of the dream team that is Gregory Drott, Chloe Ramambason and Theo Clark, novices and seniors alike are buzzing with Bumps enthusiasm. Keep an eye out on the river later on this term, because Pembroke is most definitely going up. #noSpainnogain


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