Hild Bede and John Snow win Novice Cup

The eagerly awaited Novice Cup Regatta returned last weekend following its controversial cancellation last year. Rowers and spectators alike had anticipated this event, a rare occurrence in recent years, and looked forward to all of the drama of racing between crews that, put simply, often cannot be considered capable of rowing.

The regatta itself, for those unaware, pits college rowers, who took up the sport for the first time at the start of the academic year, against others in the same position. The result: highly entertaining, competitive racing and some hilarious errors. The boats used tend not to be in the best condition, although recent safety checks rooted out the worst; and the oarsmen and –women, entered into their first race and often with little preparation or forewarning, regularly panic, leading to some ‘interesting’ races.

The Friday before the event brought copious quantities of rainfall, the bane of previous editions, and led to sleepless nights for those in charge of making the final call at 6am on Saturday. Checks at 12am had shown the river to be outrageously high so spirits were far from buoyant. Sure enough the inevitable, and somewhat traditional, call was made the next day: the event was to be postponed…again.

Some swift and bold decision making, however, meant that the regatta would begin at 12pm, four hours after its scheduled start time. Carnage ensued: nobody knew what time their races would be at and therefore the healthy crowd was disappointed by an initial lack of races: the sun set on the day with some racing having taken place, but some frustration felt by all as plenty of planning had been utterly undone by not unseasonable rain.

Sunday dawned bright and dry, however, and racing followed suit: despite some early fog reducing visibility to about twenty metres in places, the contest began in earnest at its scheduled time. The usual array of crazy steering, average technique and disastrous crashes enlivened the early fans and added to the near sinking of Mary’s from the day before. Hild Bede and Hatfield had the most notable encounters with the bank, or in the case of Hild Bede, with one of their own boats. Despite this special mention must go to an unnamed John Snow rower who contrived to fall out of the boat during the race, jump back in and carry on racing – they still lost though.

As the fog cleared races came thick and fast with Hild Bede establishing an early dominance and the others floundering around, quite literally, in their wake. Soon the first rounds were over and lunchtime brought controversy: had Bede fielded an illegal rower? Should John’s be given a re-row for Stephenson’s unlawful positioning?

The situations were resolved as the commentators quizzed the poor Hild Bede girl in question, who was, as it turned out, completely eligible to row, and the re-row was granted: Hild Bede won to secure a third boat in the men’s semi-finals, to join Castle – the women’s

competition saw Snow also face Castle and Hild Bede to compete against a surprise success from Trevs. Some close racing left the finals as an all Hild Bede affair for the men’s cup along with a third crew for the same college to face Snow in the women’s cup.

Such cheers as have never been heard for a Stockton college in Durham erupted as John Snow emerged from beneath Baths Bridge to take the women’s crown, possibly because somebody else had finally beaten Hild Bede, and somewhat unsurprisingly the latter took the men’s trophy. A good day’s racing ended with everyone in high spirits as they headed for celebratory, or commiseratory, nights out.

The presentation ceremony took place in the Palace Green Debating Chamber and was kindly attended by Peter Warburton, the Dean of Experience Durham, who generously gave his time to present the trophies to the winners, Hild Bede and John Snow, and also to the ‘most entertaining crews’, the aforementioned Hild Bede and Hatfield comedy moments stealing the show on that billing. St. Cuthbert’s were also presented with last year’s Pennant Series trophy, although St. John’s retained the men’s and women’s plates which the poor conditions on the Saturday had regrettably forced the cancellation of.

Many thanks to everybody who took part in this entirely student run event including rowers, coaches, spectators and marshals: hopefully an enjoyable weekend was had by all after a dramatic Saturday. The next event organised by Durham College Rowing is the Senate Cup, which is to be held on Wednesday 10th December.

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