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  • Writer's pictureImperial College Boat Club

BUCS Head 2023 - Saturday



The senior squad entered 9 boats and came away with an impressive 6 medals, placing 4th on the overall Victor Ludorum behind more local universities Durham, Newcastle and Edinburgh. Wind against tide made conditions challenging for Division 1, but the wind settled down for the afternoon races. This weekend puts us in great stead as we look ahead to the last events of the head racing season, WEHoRR and HoRR.

Division 1

M Champ 4+ Gold

Bow Omar Ben-Gacem

2 Jake Smith

3 Harry Stevens

4 George Shaw

Cox Zahir Ala

Before boating the lads said to each other that we have some half decent 5k scores (for an IC crew) but if we wanted to get the win in the rough conditions we would have to focus on rowing well. We had confidence from Aussie rowing legend, and Pete's mate, Drew(banga) Ginn saying we were “Looking good” on Pete’s gram. The warmup went well but it was a distant memory by the time we were told to get into race kit by our cox Zahir ‘Dingro-tripod’ Ala, who turns out to be a bit of a BNOC between all the UK rowing unis. As we turned into our final marshalling position the wind had clearly picked up as two feet high waves were starting to crest over the side of the boat. George was frustratedly trying to bail us out with his water bottle whilst Harry behind him was having trouble getting rid of water weight in a different way…

Within the first 500m of the race there was a comedic number of waves flooding the boat, blades bouncing off the choppy water and lurches side to side in the wind. Despite having a rough time of it the guys kept pushing through watching Durham and Bristol also having an awful time of it behind us. By about halfway all we could hear from Zahir was the first half of each sentence before the water in our footwells sloshed back over the speakers and made him inaudible. Whilst Zahir was under the water looking for someone to help him the bow pair of Jake and Omar were doing their best to accelerate the boat and make some headway into the conditions. The hard work from the crew paid off and in the final stretch we had the enjoyment of overtaking the Edinburgh four whilst we pulled away from Durham behind us. In the end the crew came home with the gold medal and look forward to races later in the season, hopefully on flat water.


M Champ 4- Silver

Bow Dan Kirwan

2 Jansen Papworth

3 Callum Williams

4 Ewan Jarvis

The boys put in a strong performance in heavy chop, and even pushed through a mid-race dismount by Commander Papworth thanks to a stone that lodged itself in his slide. After this eventful race, they were glad to come away with a boat that somehow still floated and a Silver medal, as well as some feedback for Mr Empacher on hatch cover design.


M Inter 4+ Gold

Bow Ben James

2 Josh Bateman

3 Peter Demyanov

4 Greg Hamlet

Cox Nathalie Griffiths

The most difficult part of the race for us was trying to find time to train together the week before, halted by illness, lectures, coursework left to the last minute and girlfriends. None the less we powered through and had a single training session on the Wednesday before BUCS to bring it all together.

After making the perilous journey up north we were greeted by wind like no other, gusts would appear that would blow away lightweights, but this wasn’t a problem for the heavyweights in the Int 4+.

About to start the race we had the Bristol Championship 4+ starting in front of us, a rivalry as old as time. Their world champion tried to rattle our bowman, but he underestimated the mental strength of this crew. As we set off, the conditions made the Bermuda triangle look like a paddling pool, but our determination never wavered. We kept it calm and composed, always staying in the fight, taking advantage of the flat water, and surviving through the rough.

As we finished, we thought he had done alright as we had produced quite the gap on the crew behind, but it was only as we got off the water that we were told about the scale of our win. Our time placing us 3rd in Champ 4+ we were incredibly happy with our performance - but now focus turns back to the tideway and HoRR in 4 weeks’ time.


M Champ Lwt 4- Fourth

Bow Cassian Cockings

2 Reuben Sharkey

3 Ruadhri McDougall

4 Matt Gummow

This was a crew of different philosophies – from ordering 4 mains for dinner to banning dessert and some innovative last-minute weight loss tactics. But they managed to put aside their differences and come together for a solid run down the track under some coastal-level chop, and came fourth overall.


W Champ 8+ Fifth

Bow Loren Boles

2 Yasmin Khalife

3 Orla Johnson

4 Lia Kapocs

5 Aoife Keane

6 Lucinda Douse

7 Laura Ellington

8 Lizzie Witt

Cox Sasha Glasson

The women’s 8+ had a challenging row to come back after a couple of crustaceans caught off the start, but showed their grit by getting back onto rhythm and putting in some solid mid-race work. They will be looking ahead to WEHoRR on the 4th of March as the next focus to round off the head racing season.


Division 2

M Champ 8+ Silver

Bow Dan Kirwan

2 Josh Bateman

3 Callum Williams

4 Omar Ben-Gacem

5 Jake Smith

6 Jansen Papworth

7 Harry Stevens

Str George Shaw

Cox Zahir Ala

Good morning aviators! After some tough fixtures against London RC and Isis two weeks ago, we were excited to see how we stacked up against other universities. GB trials the week before meant we had 4 sessions to get back into the eight and, after being reminded to watch what we put in our mouths, we felt we were ready.

The weather had settled from the morning, but the conditions were still not optimal and lots of the crew had not fully dried off (Commander Papworth was particularly displeased). We boated early, getting in a relaxed but strong warmup up to the start line. Once the marshals decided we had endured the cold and Durham’s poor chat for long enough, the racing commenced.

We set off at a strong punchy rhythm and were feeling good into the first bend. The second straight brought with it strong head winds which sapped our energy and it took a lot of effort to push through. Around the final bend we picked it back up with support from the crowds, but in the end it wasn’t quite enough. With a month until HORR, we can’t wait to give Durham a good thrashing on the tideway.


M Inter 8+ Bronze

Bow Cassian Cockings

2 Ewan Jarvis

3 Danny Shaw

4 Bert Edwards

5 Peter Demyanov

6 Greg Hamlet

7 Ben James

8 Matt Gummow

Cox Sasha Glasson

After a tough first division the wind dropped and the Tyne gods gave us some flat water. Adding to this we got a couple of fresh legs in the eight to boost our chances. After a quick turnaround and some questionable nutrition, we were back on the water.

Having refined our warmup, we boosted our egos by doing perfect square blades past all the other crews on the way up. Thanks to the women's 4s boating late we had an extended wait in marshalling where Ewan had consumed so much caffeine, he entered a new dimension where Greg was funny.

Finally we got underway when Bath decided to become wider than Harry's ego and compromised our line in the beginning of the race, but we were able to salvage it and not lose too much time. Powering through onto the last straight we all had each other's backs, and we were making sure to look good for the photos.

After some confusion with the result, due to Bristol not knowing A comes before B, we got confirmation we came 3rd, 1.5 seconds behind Durham. Happy with the result but with work to do before HoRR.


W Champ 4x Bronze

Bow Laura Ellington

2 Orla Johnson

3 Lucinda Douse

4 Lizzie Witt

The girls perfected their pre-race routine with a tactically late boating time (at least as much as the 4-minute slot would allow), emergency Lucozade and manifesting dry weather. Once the instruction came to proceed down to the start, the glasses went down and race faces came on - special shout-out to Orla for helping us through the stages of grief. Overall, one of the nicest rides down the Tyne in recent memory, and we managed to follow the briefing to ‘come home with something shiny’ by winning Bronze, with a little help from some generous steering by our friends at Notts.


W Champ 4- Fourth

Bow Loren Boles

2 Lia Kapocs

3 Aoife Keane

4 Yasmin Khalife

Despite some frankly questionable training sessions, the 4- felt ready to race down the course in Newcastle without capsizing (or catching any crustaceans). There was plenty of time for Loren to rant during marshalling (“there is no way these people have steered boats before”) before the Fantastic Four sent it more or less consistently towards the finish line (Yas would proudly like to add she “didn’t yeet it to rate 40 until the last 500m”- an exemplary show of self-control). Although the crew found a steady rhythm for the better part of the race, they made sure to call a reset as they approached the photographer (but judging by the photos maybe it wasn’t enough?). As any rower will know, races are times when you have to fight your demons. In Lia’s case, this mainly involves fighting to get her blade in the water- a battle valiantly fought but, sadly, all too often lost. It wasn’t all doom and gloom though, as Aoife pointed out: “Guys, I felt I was actually getting a bit connected on some strokes in that race and I could kind of use my legs.”


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