Category Archives: Rowing


Bumps is a 3km rowing competition where your objective is to hit (bump) the boat ahead of you (or reach the finish line) before the crew behind you bumps you. Seventeen boats in various divisions race one behind another, separated by 1.5 boat lengths (1.5 × 20m), taking off all at once with the sound of a cannon! Once two boats bump, they exit the race by pulling off the course to let the race continue, usually at the relief of the boat ahead of them and the grief of the boat behind them. If the race is close, the boat that missed their opportunity to bump can start chasing the boat that thought it was safe. If they get caught, this is called an overbump.

Starting positions for the 4 race event is determined by the historical standing from the previous year. Once a bump (or overbump) is made, the boats come out with their positions switched the next race.

The race is full of tradition and history. Here are the posts related to bumps:

Pasta Faff
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4

Bumps: Day 4 Achieving the Impossible

We did it. Today. We did it. We, the boat, as a singular entity, got super blades. We bumped up in all four days of our races including an over bump on day three.

We knew what we had to do – come out and row like we had all week. We knew we could out run First and Third M3 as long as we held them off through the start. We knew Magdalene almost caught St. Catherine’s the previous day until they lost steam and fell to us so we knew we could catch them down in the long run. We knew this day was ours for the taking.

The cannon went off and we kept FaT to a safe distance, not letting their strong starts beat ours. Around first post corner, we could see ourselves pushing away along with the calls from the bank: “You’re gaining Binson!” We surged on, ready to catch St. Cats. Before hitting the next corner, I began to hear their boat. We were so close but the pain was so immense so quickly.

Pushing into grassy corner, I could see my blade dangerously close to touching their stern. Their cox took a wide line around the turn to try to buy some time. Disciplined, our cox didn’t chase, taking the tight line and making a strong move on them.

Not three strokes later, I was even with their cox, and my blade collided with their stroke seat. Their cox ignored it, we accepted their taunt and surged further, catching their stroke’s blade on the back side on the next stroke. The hand went up, our cox called for us to hold it up. I began screaming as we listened for instructions to move it out of the way to allow the other boats to pass.

The celebration began. Three cheers were issued to St. Cats. Greenery was quickly issued to each rower as the flag came out to signal we had accomplished earing blades, a coveted feat by everyone who rows only awarded to the lucky crews. The radio station, Cam FM, was supportive of our victory.

The row home was one filled with cheers and congratulations from the bystanders and other crews, a good-hearted support and a sign of respect from those who understood what we just did. It was a uniquely warming feeling to have these crews cheering for us, Robinson M2.

It can be said that good crews go up, lucky crews get blades. I believe it. If our technical bump on Churchill on the first day wasn’t awarded, our dreams of blades would have died right then and there.

Binson M2 +6.

M. Webb, C. Rae, D. McGraw, P. Vallejo Rameriz, H. Burton, L. Leoni, J. Lau, J. Alexander, E. Bringley

Bumps: Day 3

After a hard earned day of rest, we came out today focused and ready to chase down FaT3 before they caught Maggie m3. The weather was a bit windy again, and my start wasn’t as clean as it could have been, but we pressed hard, but not hard enough.

By the time we were coming around the first corner, we watched peterhouse get bumped behind us and FaT3 had bumped Maggie — the two boats in front and two behind us, Gone. Our hearts sank as we passed FaT3 knowing our chance of bumping them was gone. We still did our best to row on and, without words, we all turned our attention on that glimmer of hope of the overbump. Everyone in the boat silently agreed that no one would let up, we could feel it in the press of the blades as we put more pressure down with each call from the cox. “And… NOW! Legs one! legs two! legs three! …” was intermixed with calls from the bank “You’re gaining Binson!”

Against all logic of hope, we pushed on from about 5 lengths behind Magdalene, unbeknownst to us, with the last two thirds of the race to go. The radio station CamFM broadcasted, “Robinson will row over.”

As we entered the halfway point in the race, we heard more calls from the bank that we were gaining as more and more pain settled in, but no one let up and the cox, the birthday boy, got to work his magic, sitting at about four lengths back.

“Here we go boys, we’re three lengths off of them, give me three tens here… Now! Swing one!…” our cox demanded; the pain continued to set in, but we pushed harder. Shouts of “They’re falling apart! Get them Binson!” distantly rolled in from the coaches on the side; the pain continued to build, but no one lost hope. “Good, boys, two lengths! SWING, NOW! SWING, One!… ” Our muscled cried out in pain, deprived of oxygen; our minds wondered if we had enough race course to catch them, but we pushed through each stroke.

As we begun approaching the railway bridge, we heard the whistle, the Holy sign to say we were within one length. We pushed harder, moving it to two whistles – indicating a half a length between us and their stern as we passed under the bridge. Our bodies pleaded and ached for us to stop after this 8 minutes of oxygen deprived torture, yet, everyone agreed to push on without ever uttering a word.

We exited the bridge. Whistles came from the bank. Crews waiting to go off shouted and cheered. The distractions were at an all time high as our bodies tries to tell us ‘no more, no more’. Our cox yelled to us: “Finish them, NOW! HOOK, SEND! HOOK, SEND!…” The whistles stopped and were replaced by shouts of “CANVAS!!” From the bank to say we were less than 4m off them. In agony we all pushed, knowing they were within reach and the end was approaching soon. I could look over and see the stern of their boat as we took the final strokes, catching the blade of their stroke seat.

The arm of their cox went up and ours yelled “Hold it up! Hold it up!” That was it, we had done it, achieved an overbump! Exhausted, we pulled off to the side, cheering and screaming out of both joy and agony.

In these moments, everything that I love about the sport came together for eight and a half beautiful minutes. The rowers all endured pain of immense agony as the oxygen was stripped from our muscles. We, all eight of us, answered the question “what will you do when it hurts, when you have no reason to believe and push harder?” Silently and in harmonious unison, we answered back: be our best, stay focused and determined, push hard, and trust every other member of the crew to do the same under the leadership of our cox and coaches. Our cox was faced with “How will you motivate and lead your crew when you know what mountains of challenges they are facing?” And answered with level-headed control, judgement, and communication; with mutual respect and trust. Today, our team became something more than the sum of the individuals in the boat. Today, our team accomplished something special, an overbump. Today, it became apparent to everyone that we have a team bond filled with unending trust, respect, and determination. Today, we validated every early wake up, every cold morning outing, every evening erg session, every reason why we trust and believe. Even luckier for me, today, we caught it all on video.

Tomorrow, one final push, one final outing towards blades.

Binson M2 +5



Bumps: Day 2

My mental focus and physical resilience was put to the test today. Less than 30m from the boat house, a pedestrian blindly stepped out into the sidewalk. Pedro slammed on his breaks coming to a stop before hitting him. Unfortunately, my brakes didn’t fare as well and I clipped Pedro’s back tire, sending myself tumbling into the street. With just as much bruising to my pride as my legs, I quickly gathered my belongings and begun to walk to the boat house. Luckily, I was just a bit bruised up and left with a little bit of road rash through my jeans, but after a few stretches and a couple minutes on the erg, I determined I was still in good enough shape to row. Putting the accident behind me, I honed in on the challenge ahead.

As if that was not enough of a test, we rowed through a flock of birds who flew away in all different directions, but not without one skillfully hitting me with excrement. At this point I felt I had two options — the easier being to let myself be mad and flustered that these two events had happened to me, losing focus and thinking just about myself; or, to put it behind me and let it go, to focus in on what was to come. I washed off that part of my jacket, considered myself lucky, and placed the last 30 minutes behind me.

With a new order and a new comprehension of the process, we rowed down to the marshaling area with the same hard fought determination. We knew we had an angry Churchill M2 behind us, and a slow Claire Hall ahead of us.

BANG! Off we went. Our start was clean and powerful today. Our focus was sharp and locked. We all knew what was needed – put the blade in the water and push, push hard.

Our work was rewarded by quickly closing in on Claire Hall within the first 600 m of the race, bumping them with our hardest effort off the start yet.

Due to our failure to understand how to use the GoPro, we ended up with a slideshow set to music chosen not by us…

Robinson M2 +2 for the week.

Bumps: Day 1

The big day that we have been training for all term has finally arrived! The pre-race meet was filled with lots of nerves, from my part at least. A few minutes of warm ups were done on the ergs before braving the foul-turning weather. The forecast called for a high of 9C, but a storm rolled in dropping the temperature down to 3C with a wind chill down to freezing as we were rowing.

The final pre-race chats were made, covering the race plan and a few technique points to be aware as we head off to the marshaling area (waiting area). Final comments were made to remind us that we are prepared and to rely on everything that we had worked on during the early morning outings and evening erg sessions over the last 8 weeks. As we pushed off, all the joking and lightheartedness stopped until we stepped out of the boat at the marshaling area.

Once we were out and waiting, we began sizing up the competition, chuckling how one group struggled to park their boat, wondering how others were going to fare against surrounding foes, eventually reminding ourselves that none of that mattered and that we needed to focus inwards not outwards. Again, as we pushed off to line up at the starting statiins, to get our two practice starts, all tom-foolery ended to focus at the task we had at had: catching Churchill M2 before they caught First and Third M3 or before Peterhouse M2 catches us.

Making it to the starting station initiated this pre-race ritual we learned about: parking the boat, getting out to de-kit into our race outfits, gathering around for a final chat. On the sound of the 4 minute cannon, we entered the boat; at the one minute cannon, we settled in and finished performing the final checks on our equipment; at twenty seconds left on the stopwatch, we were pushed out and bow pair were told to take taps as needed as the final countdown came; BANG, go!

It wasn’t our best start, or mine in particular. The weather was playing a real factor here, causing me to miss water and whiff for a three of the first twenty strokes, each time I fought to get back in time with the crew. We could see Peterhouse gain a little on us, which made us fight harder, push stronger, breathe deeper. As we quickly learned how many distractions there are on the course, we all doubled down and settled in to our pace, pressing the boat away from us on this mid-afternoon race. We quickly closed in on churchill in between the first and second corner, leaving peterhouse far behind, until finally making contact. A quick tap and I waited for the call to hold the boat up to no avail. Rowing on, we make contact a second time with a large thud and larger resistance, much like moving a second boat…

We thought we had them, but upon further examination, we found that we were at the end of a 4 boat pileup. Confused and concerned we may have had to row on, we braced ourselves for a standing start to escape the boat closing in behind us, who’s distance was hidden by the corner. Eventually we were called to row off to the side with no indication on what the judges decision was.

These were tense moments. We sat in fury, rage, and exhaustion as we pleaded to the coaches, our only outlet, that we got them. It was only after we buckled down and begun rowing how that the official decision came in that Fat bumped Claire Hall and we were awarded a techical bump because we were overlapping churchill as they were impeded by the newly stationary boats. We were lucky, and learned a valuable lesson…

Bumps is not a fair race.

We lucked out today, getting the better end of a call. We grabbed our shrubbery and rowed home, celebrating our hard earned luck.

Our bank party did their best to cheer us on, but due to various technical difficulties, we failed to capture and save video footage of the race… blame the weather and batteries, we didn’t get anything.

Bumps: Pasta Faff

Tonight is the eve of our first day of Bumps. As is the Binson tradition, we had a Pasta Faff – where we come together and carboload and have some time for team bonding.

With some reluctance, we got all 9 members of our crew together with 8 of us eating dinner together, putting away 1.5 kg of ground beef, 800g of sausage, 1 kg of pasta, 1 kg of bread, and 600g of cheese. If you’re lucky enough to have no clue how much food that is, do yourself a favor and don’t look it up.

After dinner we took some time to watch former race videos of past M2 crews along with a few more professional crew’s races. This was a great way for us to digest our food and begin to focus in on the races ahead of us.

All in all it was a good evening to get focused on our team and eat some good food. Apparently they’ve gone for less quality food in the past, but Pedro and I don’t work that way…

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

Daniel James Brown is upfront with what happens in his historical non-fiction: the boys of University of Washington win gold in the 1936 Olympic games in Nazi Germany. As strange as it may seem to give the ending away instead of drawing out the drama, trusting the reader not to look up the results, Brown gives away nothing about the book.  In fact, this book is less about the finish line and more about what led up to and came together in the final 150m of that race in 1936.

By Source, Fair Use.×1564.jpg

The further you shorten and abstract this story, the greater injustice you do to its beauty. This book is the story of one of the rowers, Joe Rantz, but is shared by many others in the boat. Coming from humble means, Joe’s story is one littered with broken trust, abandonment, and physical labor. His mother dies when he was a young boy, tearing apart his family, leading to him being sent away. His father returns, remarries, and moves his new family away, leaving Joe on the porch to fend for himself in the countryside in Washington.

Rantz makes it to University of Washington where life’s distractions keeps Joe’s mind occupied as he learns to row. Money, school, family, work. All of these worries distracts him from growing with his boat. His group of freshmen rowers were some of the best that had come around. With a few roster changes, this was the boat that won the Olympic gold just a few years later.

This book is about what differentiates a good crew from a great crew. After spending last term learning to row, this was an interesting and emotional topic to read. A great crew has no individuals, but is one entity far greater than the sum of its parts. Brown does a beautiful job at capturing the heartache as well as the triumph of these stories while painting the relevant historical setting – Nazi Germany and its propaganda (“fake news” if you will…), Seattle, and  the landscape of the rowing field. He captures the transformation of a community that is placed on the map through victories of their home team, much like Coastal Carolina placed Conway, SC on the map with the NCAA baseball victory and Clemson put themselves on the map by recently toppling Alabama.

I would highly recommend this book to everyone and say it is a Must Read for anyone who has sat in a crew boat.

Fairbairn’s Rowing!

As the term came to a close, so did the 2016 crew season. For me, it was the end of first term of rowing, one of many to come. Robinson’s boat club holds a formal dinner to celebrate this achievement. We all got together and thank all of those who made this term possible and enjoyable — all the coaches, captains, coxes, and leadership within the boat club. This award ceremony was filled with gifts of beer for the captains and pillows for the coxswain’s uncomfortable seat.  As someone who only filled in as a cox a couple times, I wasn’t named as being a cox, to no disappointment to me, but the other novice cox wanted to make sure I felt appreciated and gave me one of the beers he received. The thought was super sweet, thanks Hearst.

Dinner was filled with wonderful food, lots of alcohol, and lots of fines. Fines are given out for stupid things that were done or said throughout the term. I was fined for falling off the erg at Queen’s ergs, for it being my first term, and for being a novice. Other people were fined for oddly euphemistic phrases, which were, of course, shamefully claimed by the culprits. When fined, the culprit must stand up and drink.

After dinner, we all went to the bar and the JCR common room and hung out.

One week later, it was time to ROW!

It was a 2.7km time trial race with a rolling start. They sent us off in order of last years’ winners, we let off 29th. We finished the race in 10:54, 12th place, the 5th most ‘improved’ boat. The same logic that went behind why they let us off in that order and saying that our boat ‘improved’ is kinda ironic — It kind assumes that one year’s NOVICE boat performance affects or predicts the next year’s boat… The man kneeling, the one who outweighs us by about 4 kg, he was our cox, the man who commands us and does not provide propulsion to the boat. But he was a great commander from the back of the boat!

Robinson NM1, 2016

These boys were one some of the best boys to row with. I look forward to working with these guys next term. Till next year!

Emma Sprints and Gamecox!

Emma Sprints is a short race that is hosted by Emmanuel College. You complete a short sprint in “fancy dress” – so the whole team dresses up in corresponding costumes. My team all dressed up as Steve Zissou  from The Life Aquatic in our matching blue shirts and red hats. If they gave awards for the most obscure fancy dress reference, we would have won:

From the Life Aquatic
From the Life Aquatic

What this race really turns into is a bunch of novice boats and rowers rowing as fast and as hard as they can and every once in a while you get a crab:

Luckily, we didn’t have anything like that — but we won one race and lost one race. It really had to do with the timing. Here’s the race videos:

Race One: Victory

Race Two: Not so victory

I have a couple comments: first, we were miserably out of time in the second video. If you didn’t notice it, don’t go back and watch it. Second, I was dead out of breath after the first race so the second race was a tad more difficult. Time to work on that cardio!

But the fun doesn’t stop there! Or really the fun started earlier that morning when I had to cox NM2 during their race! Hence, I am officially a Gamecox.

We won our first race and lost our second in a well fought match by less than a foot. It was quite a way to go out, but for my third time coxing, I think I did a pretty good job trying to lead these boys to victory! As you can see from the pictures, I was repping the Team Zissou as the cox.


Rowing and Queen’s Ergs 2016

The only thing that stops rowing is a yellow or red safety flag – not rain and definitely not freezing temperatures. Over the last week we had a couple mornings where we rowed at 1°C or at about 4°C and raining. The really bad outing was the one where we essentially sat in the rain doing drills for an hour, cold, and wet. We put the boat up, went inside to take off our wet outer layers and jump on the ergs to row until we could feel our fingers and toes again. Does this seem miserable? Yeah, it’s what we signed up for.

But rowing does have it’s benefits: first, your workout is done before work in the morning; second, you have 8 other people to hold you accountable to your workout; third, you have 8 other people to commiserate with; fourth, you get a nice full body work out; and lastly, you get to see some pretty awesome sun rises when it’s a nice day.

Our first competition happened on 8 November: Queen’s Ergs! Queen’s college hosts an indoor erg competition: an 8x500m relay. Within each division, twelve teams of eight rowers pulls their hardest and fastest 500m erg time and are given twenty seconds to fall off the erg and let the next rower repeat.

This was absolute hell, but did you love every minute of it! You were responsible for pulling your 500m while everyone stood around you screaming to have you pull faster and ELEVEN other groups in the room were doing the same. I pulled the fastest 500m of my life at a 1:37.9s, even falling off the sliding seat for the last couple of meters.

We placed well enough in our first round to make it to the finals, aka, we had to come back at 11pm and do it all again. I did stay on the seat this time and managed to row a little faster at 1:37.2s.

Here’s a couple videos from the NM1 first round and the mixed round.