Alexander Bebb

Club: OUBC

Height: 195cm

School: St. George’s School

International rowing record: 5th, 2018 World Rowing Under 23 Championships, BM8+

Year started rowing: 2011

How have you coped this year?

It took a fair amount of time to develop and refine procedures that allow me to cope with all that this year has – and continues to – throw at us, and getting to the point of being able to live with these has certainly not been easy. The best adaptation is the shift to a day-byday focus, fixating on the day of work and training while remaining cognisant of the larger picture. This has allowed me to train without worrying about the external factors that I have no influence over; instead making space to focus on what I can control in each stroke.

Could you build a strong team culture while training virtually?

Initially, no. It took a while to adapt to the new normal. Our strongest team culture came when we, as a team, stepped back and took a look at the bigger picture. We realised that our best motivator is the team around us, which was not reflected in the way we had been training before. The team rallied around restructuring our trainings to match, as closely as possible, our normal year. We introduced Zoom ergs with set timings, had the coaches get involved for technical feedback, and tried to recreate some fixtures for a bit of fun competition.

Were the isolated ergs better or worse than expected?

Personally, it was about what I expected. After 4 years in upstate New York, I’m fairly used to long erg seasons. The big difference this year versus others is the solitary nature of pandemic training. It made each day more of a challenge, but not insurmountable when the team was behind me.

What was your lockdown training set up?

Fairly early on when the weather turned, we built a small wooden frame and stretched a tarp over it out in our garden. While cold, we stayed dry despite the lovely English weather and got plenty of fresh air in training. We’ve also been using our sitting room, clearing it out so we can do calisthenics or stretching and activation work with the team over Zoom.

How do you cope with race day nerves?

I find these nerves are best dealt with well before race day in two ways. First, and most important, is the trust in your boat. When you back the other eight guys to throw themselves into the abyss for you, just as you’d do for them, you can’t ever feel as nervous as you might otherwise. Second, I like to establish a warm-up routine during the year and carry that through race day. The consistency calms any residual nerves and makes it easy to treat the race as another training session.

The biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge thus far has been the speed with which we have had to adapt to the ever-changing situation we find ourselves in. Trial VIIIs was a fantastic test run of this, as we only had 10 days to prepare for a full race. Thankfully, we’ve had 4 weeks to prepare for the 4th of April date.

The toughest session?

The toughest session we’ve done this year was a series of mid length pieces at 2km pace. The combination of lactic burn and pulling alone was both physically and mentally demanding. The team is definitely tougher as a result, but we’d all prefer to do the work together if given the chance.

The best day, so far?

The most enjoyable day so far was the first day back on the water after the 3rd lockdown. After many weeks training alone during winter, returning to the water with a flat river, no wind, and the sun shining couldn’t have been better. There was a sense of enjoyment only attained and understood after so long indoors.

Only the Blue Boat races on the 4th April 2021: What’s it like splitting the squad?

This couldn’t have been more bittersweet. As Nick Elkington said, it removed uncertainty from one group while adding it to another. A divide in any team is not the ideal situation, and it does require extra care to ensure it doesn’t negatively impact the reserves’ performance.

Is it strange to train without the reserve eight?

It is great to have, at least, a 4+ out on the water. I come from a programme that boated a 4th eight, so I’m very used to having at least another 2-3 boats around at all time. It’s oddly quiet around the boathouse. While great for Covid safety, it’s been yet another thing we’ve had to adapt to.

Why do you want to beat Cambridge?

This year is a unique opportunity for our squad. Aside from the standard desire to win and the sacrifices we make to partake in this race, we have the opportunity to beat the Tabs on their home course.