In their international debut, the ICBC men’s novice 8+ returned from the Brugge Boat Race with a solid win in the student men’s category. The challenges, however, came before the boat had even touched the water. Transport of two crucial elements turned out to be challenging: the boat and our bowman. Eight hours before departure, the boat remained rigged and on the rack to which the whole crew was unaware. After a panicked email from Cyril, a dash across Putney bridge from Ian Kegler and his flat mates and some members of the senior squad the boat was eventually loaded on to the Westminster trailer. Later that evening our bowman, Max Castello (Cyril’s last remaining compatriot following Seb Pujalte’s ‘accident’ at the annual annual dinner), was loaded onto an overnight Megabus reportedly of comparable comfort to the Westminster trailer. With a whole 1 hours sleep Max arrived in his motherland at 5:30 in the morning for the stroke man taxi (David Simmonds) to provide some student style transport for the short journey to Brugge: The ‘Venice of the north’.
After a final team talk from Cyril and a solid race warm up, the crew took to the water under the strict command of the Belgian marshals. The next challenge came in the form of a full crew low bridge limbo, providing great entertainment for photographers and spectators alike. Our cox, Charlotte Grayson, overcame some difficult manoeuvring in the tight, windy river and we spun to line up against our Tideway opponents: LSE. Unlike a standard head race, crews are set off in pairs for a mini match race down the scenic course. LSE’s 2nd men’s boat struggled with the navigation of the low bridge before the start so the race became a more conventional time trial for our novice crew. The main section of the race felt a little rough around the edges, possibly due to the recent return of some injured crew members. In the final stretch of the race, to our surprise, there was a roar from the banks of the river to which we just assumed we had just gained some Belgian fans and bathed in the attention. A few seconds later the roar became more audible to be ‘keep going!!’ being said in a few different European accents. It was then that Charlotte saw the error in her 10m premature call of “easy there”. After a frantic movement of 8 blades in all directions we heard the hooter, confirming we had now finished. Later that evening over a burger we concluded that the race was a learning experience to be built upon, but overall a solid result with a win in the student men’s category.