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History of CHBC


I thoroughly enjoyed my time as the President of the Clare Hall Boat Club between 2019 and 2021 and I am thankful for the tremendous team spirit of this club, both off and on the water. The club has been a true home away from home for many college members, especially during the height of the pandemic. For example, I was elated to see so much interest for our virtual workouts in 2020 and 2021 and that new, enthusiastic rowers formed the basis of the fantastic return to the river. So despite the disruptions due to Covid-19, I am glad to hand over the club in good financial shape and with truly wonderful members to a capable and enthusiastic committee. They will do a great job, I am sure of it.

-Timo Haber


In the year the club had an impressive turnout for the initial induction with approximately 40 students expressing interest, that’s one out of every five new students. The Club participated in Queen’s Ergs, Emma Sprints, and the Christmas Head. Additionally, there were good performances in Lent Bumps. Perhaps most importantly, the Club was able to fill the women’s crew that was so missed from the previous season. The men’s crew bumped up two positions, and the women’s crew held their own against fierce competition to retain their position.

May Bumps 2019 went spectacularly well for Clare Hall. On the last day of May Bumps, both the men’s and women’s crew were up for blades, with the men already successfully being a sandwich boat and moving from the IV to the III division. The women came up against a formidable opponent and were chasing them for the whole course. Unfortunately, the course was not long enough to catch them. The men’s team were more fortunate and earned their blades. On top of that, with a men’s crew scoring a total of +7 and a woman’s crew scoring a total of +3, Clare Hall was awarded the Pegasus cup for the year!

-Marno van der Maas


The freak weather and snow in the year of 2018 made the Lent Bumps particularly eventful. To quote one of the rowers: “These are the worst conditions I have ever rowed in”. Slippery conditions even caused an injury as one of the rowers slipped on the ice while waiting and injured his wrist on the first day of Bumps. Despite this setback and the poor weather, the Clare Hall M1 boat performed well, scoring four row-overs, retaining their overall position in Lent Bumps.

Additionally, as the Club was unable to field a W1 crew, the club launched a new initiative, the Clare Hall Women’s and Men’s 1 (CHBCWM1), which was a combined boat that took part in locally organised races as a mixed crew.

In May Bumps, the M1 crew was exceptionally successful, earning their blades with a total score of +6. On day one, the crew was chasing down ARU. There was too much carnage within the front of both crews to continue rowing, but Clare Hall was gaining enough and closing in on the opposing crew that they were awarded a technical bump. On day two, the crew left no doubt by bumping Girton II within the first moments of the race. On day three, the crew the Club was chasing bumped out of the race early, meaning the only chance to move up was an over-bump. The M1 rose to challenge, catching Darwin II just after the railway bridge in an impressive over-bump. On the final day, and in a moment of picturesque glory, the M1 earned their blades by bumping Corpus II directly in front of the roaring crowd at The Plough Pub.

-Leonard Ng Wei Tat


The start of the year was occupied with recruiting novices and teaching them to row, and by the end of Michaelmas, the crew was happy with their achievements. Both novice men and women participated in Queen’s Ergs and several other races. The crew was particularly active, taking part in Emma Sprints, Clare Novices Regatta, and Fairbairns Cup. The women participated in the Christmas Head doing their best to look like a Christmas Tree (as the race is all about the costumes!).

With lent came earlier mornings, and things got serious as we trained for Lent Bumps, the first of the two main events in Cambridge College-rowing every year. Despite the crews best efforts, there was a difficult time in Lents. After threes of steadily bumping up, the new M1, formed of mostly novice rowers, found themselves in a tricky position in the M3 division and went down four spots. The W1 did not fare much better: although they rowed over on the first day, they finished Lent Bumps three places down. 

-Helena Pérez Valle


Clare Hall Boat Club started the year by celebrating the arrival of Hamoodi, a four-person boat, to the club’s fleet with a boat christening ceremony that was attended by our President David Ibbetson and numerous current members and alumni of the club. The acquisition of “Hamoodi” was made possible by generous donations from club members who wish to remain anonymous, and we would like to take this opportunity to offer our deepest gratitude for their generosity and support once more. As has become customary, the weather proved co-operative on our Novice Day and was held on a lovely October day, with enthusiasm amongst the new students and Fellows as high as ever. The club enjoyed a mildly successful Michaelmas Term with both the novice men and women doing well at the Emmanuel Sprint Regatta and Clare Novice Regatta, and the novice men enjoying good placement at the Fairbairn Cup.

Building on the commitment of our novice rowers, Lent Term started auspiciously with favourable weather conditions that allowed for plenty of water time and participation in several races for our crews. Regrettably, our fortunes during Lent Bumps were somewhat mixed, which saw the men’s crew dropping down two spots despite a spirited effort against fierce competition. The women’s crew rowed over the first three days of bumps, but their fourth day provided the high point of Lent Bumps when they managed to bump St. Catharine’s to go up one spot for bumps. Members of the local media noticed the crew’s ensuing energetic celebrations, and the women’s crew managed to continue another time-honoured CHBC tradition of providing cover-picture material for local media’s bumps coverage.

Easter Term arrived with the promise of sunnier skies and warmer days. The academic demands of the term took their toll on the men’s team, which struggled to put a consistent crew together and achieved mediocre results in May Bumps. The women’s team, however, approached their training with renewed vigour. Their increased training paid early dividends when they won their division in the Champs Eight Head Race and were the plate winners at the Nines Spring Regatta. With these promising initial results, the women’s crew were poised for great results at May Bumps, but nothing could have prepared them for their actual accomplishments. On the first day of Bumps, Clare Hall advanced to the third women’s division after chasing down Fitzwilliam W2 and followed up with bumps of Anglia Ruskin W1 and Girton W2 the two ensuing days. On the last day, knowing they had a chance at blades, the women were nervous but resolute. Their determination became essential as the two crews in front of them bumped out early in the race, and the Clare Hall women were given the daunting task of trying to over-bump St. Catharine’s W2, which started a full six boat lengths in front. But no challenge was too difficult for this year’s women’s crew as they over bumped to go +6 for May Bumps, thereby earning ‘super-blades’.

Shen Gao


The start of the year was all about building on the successes of the previous year, which saw CHBC enter three boats in May Bumps for the first time since 2008. Our Novice Day took place on a gorgeous October day, and the enthusiasm amongst the new students and fellows was as high as ever. As the familiar Cambridge winter chill started settling in, our novice men’s and women’s crews enjoyed some success in Michaelmas Term, with the women notably winning ‘Best Costume’ for their interpretation of Swan Lake during the Emmanuel Sprint Regatta. The club ended 2014 on a high note, with three crews participating in the Fairbairn Cup as well as entering a crew for Christmas Head, both firsts in the history of CHBC.

Building on the commitment of our novice rowers, Lent Term saw the boat club taking on the unfamiliar but rewarding challenge of scheduling outings for three full crews. Luckily, weather conditions this year were favourable, and all three CHBC crews saw plenty of time on the water including several races before Lent Bumps. Regrettably, our fortunes during Lent Bumps were somewhat mixed, with the second men’s crew just missing qualifications in their Getting-on-Race after a spirited effort, and the women’s crew dropping down three spots against fierce competition. The high point of Lent Bumps came from the first men’s crew, who matched last year’s result by moving up three places. Most noteworthy, however, is that they bumped Hughes Hall’s first men’s crew, and as a result, Clare Hall is no longer the lowest-ranked crew on the river. In May Bumps, the M2 finished with +3 and almost won blades, making them the most successful M2 of the season.

Shen Gao


The quieter summer months between seasons were used to bring the boats back into racing form. Half of the women’s boat was refurbished, while the men’s boat underwent a complete overhaul. This included changing its colour from the original pale yellow to a more classic white with Clare Hall racing stripes and replacing both the worn-out gates and fractured footplates.

At the start of the year and taking advantage of the majestic Indian summer weather, our novice day gave many of the students, Fellows and Visiting Fellows their first introduction to rowing on the Cam. After learning how many layers they needed to stay warm on a cold November morning and the best route for cycling to the boathouse in the dark for a 7 am outing, both the men’s and women’s novice teams participated in several races over Michaelmas Term, with some success.

Lent Term was a different kettle of fish. Water training was limited – despite our location in one of the driest places in the UK, a very wet winter resulted in flooding and many red flag days where boating was not permitted. The teams also had to train around the refurbishment of the Green Dragon Bridge, restricting access to one boat per club during the prime morning rowing time. Such conditions were not ideal for our preparation for Lent Bumps, and our results were mixed. While the men’s boat moved up three spots, the women’s boat, sadly, dropped 4. Additionally, the M1 secured their first win in their division in the Champs Eight Head race during Easter Term.


On a warm and sunny autumn day in Michaelmas Term 2012, the senior rowers introduced more than 50 Clare Hallers to rowing, getting many of them on to the water on that first day. Michaelmas Term is always focused on getting novices to improve their technique and increase their fitness, ready for the racing schedule.

As in previous years, a 24-hour erg fundraising event was held in the Anthony Low Building to raise money for the Boat Club. Clare Hall rowers and their supporters ‘erged’ for 24 hours by relay. Every rower was sponsored for the time they spent on the erg. The funds raised allow us to keep the boat club free for all college members and also help us to replace ageing equipment. In total, the rowers travelled 326.971 km, more than the distance from Cambridge to Lille. Through the hard work of our rowers, alumni rowers and other College members, the boat club raised more than £4,000.


The 2011/2012 season started with a shortage of experienced rowers, as more than half of the previous year’s rowers had graduated. Those remaining worked hard to secure 32 novice rowers who showed enthusiasm and potential and gave us a strong presence at the Queen’s Ergs indoor rowing competition.

It is quite a job to train a novice. The captains at the time, Susanna Loof, Anna Huefner, Olivier Messe and David Weiss have put enormous effort into their crews. A 24-hour Erging Fund Raising Event was held on 11-12 February, which raised £721. Over the whole year, £1,650 was raised. Thanks to all who donated. In the Lent Bumps, we made good progress. The Men’s first crew (M1) became the Head of Division VI with a +1 and Women’s first crew (W1) kept their position in Division III. Our M1 rowed twice every single day during the Bumps as a Sandwich Boat, rowing first as the head in the lower division and again at the bottom in the upper-division. It was a genuinely exhausting race for the boys, but they performed very well.

Our crews started the May Bumps with strong performances. The Men’s VIII bumped Wolfson’s M2, and our Women’s VIII rowed over on the first day. The following three days were full of drama. On day 3, our M1 was pumped by Downing M3. Worse than that, Downing’s boat crashed on us and put a hole the size of a squash ball in our boat. We sealed it with water-proof tape. On day 4, our M1 was given a ‘Technically Bumped’ by the race organiser, Cambridge University Combined Boat Clubs (CUCBC). We made a strong appeal against this judgement, with photo evidence, without success. Although the May Bumps this year was not very successful, the men’s 1st VIII ended on -1, and the women finished on -3. We learned a lesson about the unpredictability of the bumps format and pledged a strong return next year.


Both the men and the women’s rowing teams had a stellar season. The women’s crew started the year with a  record number of members. They took part in 11 races throughout the year with W1 and sometimes a W2 crew. These races included Cantab’s Winter Head, Emma Sprints, Clare Novice Regatta, the unforgettable Fairbairns with the frozen river, City’s Head to Head, Newnham Short Course, Pembroke Regatta, Head of the Cam, City Sprint Regatta, the unbelievably windy Camps Eight Head, and last but not least 99’s Spring Regatta, which they won. In addition to that, the W1 raced in Lent Bumps, in March with an overall result of -2 after one bump, two row-overs, and one negative over bump (after crashing on the bank due to equipment failure). In May Bumps they bumped Jesus III, St. Edmunds, Emmanuel III with an overall result of +2.

Despite being in the May’s Lower Division, Clare Hall men were able to row similar times to division two boats consistently. The men won medals for Uni-Fours and pots for the Winter Head to Head, Spring Head to Head, and the Cambridge ’99 Spring Regatta. Further, the men bumped Emmanuel III, Sidney Sussex II, over bumped First and Third IV and Wolfson II, and lastly bumped Fitzwilliam II during Lent Bumps to win blades and end up being +6. For May Bumps they bumped Selwyn III, Jesus III, Darwin II, to get +3.

2009 – 2010

In 2010 the Clare Hall Boat Club celebrated what was perhaps its most successful year yet! In the major rowing event of the year, the May Bumps, CHBC won the Pegasus Cup – awarded to the most successful boat club overall in the competition. The men’s boat bumped up three places, while the women’s team bumped up four places, securing their place in the third division and winning blades for the third year in a row. The cup will be on display in the bar area for the next year. Earlier in the year the women’s first team also won their division of the City Sprints Regatta, and one of their rowers Julia Fisher (novice 2008) was selected to represent Cambridge in the Blondie vs Oxford Osiris boat race. Most importantly, the spirit of the club continued to fly high with 30 recruits, high race entries, ambitious training, a very enjoyable Boat Club Dinner and the launch of our own line of Boat Club blazers, ties, bow ties, and garters!

CHBC wouldn’t be where it is today except for the legacy left by our past members, and support from our alumni this year has again been inspiring. Sarah Tasker (2002) got involved with coaching the W1, Arian Burke (2008) erged live via webcam from Canada in our sponsored erg event, while Gillian Wu (2008) returned to Cambridge to bank party the May Bumps for the third year running! We also welcomed over 40 CHBC alumni back to college for our first Alumni Boat Club Dinner in June. Thanks to the generous financial support of our alumni and college members, together with sponsorship raised at the 24hour sponsored ergathon in January, the Club received over £4000 in donations, enabling the purchase of a replacement second-hand men’s VIII as well as money towards professional coaching for the next year if you’d like to reconnect with the club in any way we’d love to hear from you!

-Alexandra Woolgar

2008 – 2009 Women’s

Well done, Clare Hall women! After a lot of hard training in misty winter mornings and sunny spring evenings, our ladies have done it again this year: we have won blades! Especially on the last day, our fabulous girls demonstrated their incredible will and leg power and bumped FaT W3 after a long and exhausting race coming out of Ditton corner. This is even more impressive, as they had to row with only seven girls and only three bow siders around the grassy corner when 3’s rigger broke after the start. Please read the full race report of our grinding race and brilliant coxing in the race report.


Bumped Queens III
Bumped Homerton II
Bumped Murray Edwards II
Bumped First and Third III

Special thanks to Sir Martin Harris for his support on the bank, as well as to Gill Wu, Adrienne Leonard and Antje Beyer for their bank partying, whistling and push-off duties.

Blades for the second time in a row! Let’s all enjoy this moment! I’m sure everyone involved will remember it for a very long time.

Women’s Rowing 2007-08

What a fantastic year for the Clare Hall women! After a record-breaking intake, and a year filled with solid performances in CUCBC races, we capped off our success with two firsts in Mays: the first time that two women’s crews were entered in the May bumps races and the first time that a women’s crew has won blades!! Congratulations to our second women’s crew for getting on, and for their dramatic bump up on Sidney Sussex III on day 3!

Our W1 crew showed fantastic composure throughout what was a somewhat chaotic week, and bumps came quickly all four days. The races were not short of drama though; on our last day, we were part of a sandwich, and there was some confusion about who bumped who first. We were also involved in a crash with a Robinson boat, leaving a hole in our boat just behind stroke’s footplate. But we did it!

The results summary:


Bumped by Peterhouse II
Rowed over
Bumped Sidney Sussex III
Bumped by Sidney Sussex III


Bumped Newnham IV
Bumped Fitzwilliam II
Bumped Robinson II
Bumped Addenbrookes Crashed into by Robinson II

Many thanks to our tremendous team of bank parties and the mass of supporters on the bank on the last day. Extra special thanks to Ekhard and Lisa Salje for bank partying and photographing our success.

Men’s 2006 – 2007

Congratulations to the Men’s VIII of the Clare Hall Boat Club for winning blades in the University May Bumps 2007! The Men’s team is steadily improving in the divisional hierarchy having advanced four places last year and an astounding seven places this year, taking them from the fifth to the fourth division.

The Bumps are the main rowing competition in Cambridge. We have the Lent Bumps in February and the prestigious May Bumps in June. 


Wednesday: Overbumped (Magdalene III)
Thursday: Bumped (Christ’s III)
Friday: Bumped (1st and 3rd V)
Saturday: Bumped (Sidney Sussex II and Christ’s IV)

May Bumps 2006

The May Bumps, 14-17 June, witnessed unprecedented success for the Clare Hall Men’s Team. Through a strict programme of gruelling land training and early morning rises, the captain, Till Wagner, had patiently moulded a group of academic misfits into – at least by the standards of bumps division V – something resembling a rowing dream team of Nietzschean supermen.

The team showed itself focused, ruthless and immune to sentimentality when it eschewed fraternal feeling to ram the Clare IV boat in the first race of the four-day contest. Spurred on by this early victory, it made a good showing against a somewhat lethargic crew from Downing on the following day, catching them within thirty seconds. While these victories might partially be attributed to the natural advantage in age, experience and worldliness possessed by our graduates over their younger rivals, the competition on the third day, comprising a Fellows’ crew from the Lady Margaret Boat Club (St. John’s College), presented a very different challenge.

More experienced, technically excellent and certainly more intelligent, this team, fortunately, lacked the sheer brute force provided by our Scandinavian heavyweights and soon succumbed after a bout of inelegant but high-pressure rowing. For all of the crew, it was the final day which will be remembered as the real challenge.

The Fitzwilliam III boat was rumoured to be one of the better teams in the division and, with Clare Hall now hopeful of winning blades, preparation for this last race was thorough. Seat slides were checked, nuts tightened, and unique rowing shirts were issued to give the team some visual uniformity, thereby hopefully intimidating the opposition and compensating for what we lacked in rowing synchronisation. With fate hanging in the balance and eternal glory almost in reach, the team paddled slowly down to its start positions at Baits Bite Lock and waited tensely.

As the starter’s gun went off, disaster almost struck when the boat, not quite straight in the river, narrowly avoided ploughing into a bank. With Fitzwilliam III racing into the distance, we righted ourselves, picked up speed and chased after our adversary. As the gap between the boats narrowed, the team’s support party, led by our excellent coach, Michelle Smith, became increasingly agitated and a final burst of ten ‘power strokes’ brought us within metres of the opponent’s stern. The sight of nine people and ninety kilograms of carbon fibre rushing towards you at speed is somewhat intimidating but rather than gracefully concede, Fitzwilliam unsportingly picked up their pace enough to maintain the lead.

The race now developed into a competition of endurance, rowers grimly hunched over their oars. At the same time, the bank party screamed encouragement and Clare Hall’s inestimable cox, Jieping Zhang, shouted war cries from the back of the boat. With oars flailing, much of the crew gasping for air and the present writer almost certain that he was about to fall unconscious, contact was suddenly made with Fitzwilliam, the race marshal on the bank bawled at us that our race was over and we pulled to the side, tired, hoarse but happy. For the first time in Clare Hall’s forty-year existence, blades had been won by a college crew. As Jieping Zhang observed, “We broke history”.

2005 – 2006


Wednesday: Bumped Clare IV
Thursday: Bumped Downing IV
Friday: Bumped LMBC V
Sat.: Bumped Fitzwilliam III


Michelle Smith (Coach)
Jieping Zhang (Cox)
Till Wagner (Stroke, Captain)
Mikkel Ostergaard (7)
Jesper Gulddal (6)
Karl M. Erixon (5)
Ross Anderson (4)
Alex Watson (3)
Amir Amel-Zadeh (2)
/Joel Jones (2)
Bernd Wittner (bow).

2004 – 2005

One month has passed now since the May Bumps, the highlight of the Cambridge rowing calendar and indeed one of the most exciting things you can do as a student at Cambridge University. It was a rush of pure adrenaline to start only one and a half boat lengths apart from the other crews. As in the last year, there had not been a Clare Hall Men’s crew in the May Bumps, we had started at the bottom of the Fifth Division, right above the getting-on-race crews. After we got technically bumped by Trinity Hall IV on the first day due to some chaos in the Fifth Division, we re-bumped Trinity Hall IV on the second day, in a perfect race over bumped Jesus V on the third day, and after a thrilling chase got bumped by Clare IV on the fourth and final day. Overall, we went up two places and established a firm position for the next year’s crew. The May Bumps 2005 crew consisted of Hannes Westendorf (Bow), Kai Tan (2), Jeffrey Lengyel (3), Bernd Wittner (4), Ross Anderson (5), Paul Fletcher (6), Mikkel Ostergaard (7), Guido Zoellner (Stroke), Maysa Saba (Cox), and Daniel Faas (Sub for Hannes Westendorf).

Further rowers over the year included Martina Boerner (Cox), Yong Chen, Theo Markettos, Hendrik Puschmann, Johnny Ryan, Mike Schlossman and Jieping Zhang (in alphabetical order). It has been a fantastic ending to this year’s rowing season. And it has been quite a way to get there.

The Clare Hall Boat Club Men’s 1st VIII in the May Bumps 2005. Back row left to right: Paul Fletcher, Jeffrey Lengyel, Guido Zoellner, Daniel Faas, Ross Anderson; front row left to right: Bernd Wittner, Hannes Westendorf, Maysa Saba, Mikkel Ostergaard, Kai Tan.

It all started in October 2004, when a couple of us decided that we wanted to give rowing a try. After all, this is the classic sport at Cambridge University, and the Clare Hall Men’s VIII boat, the Black Swan, carefully looked after by Equipment Officer and Women’s Captain Inka Borchers, was waiting for us at the beautiful Clare boathouse. We started from scratch, and only weeks later met two students who had been rowing at Clare Hall before: Kai Tan and Daniel Faas. After Sieglinde Pfaendler, the Boat Club’s senior cox had put in a vast amount of time and patience to get us all set up on the Cam; we were ready to go. We had been recruiting some 14 interested rowers, and we received invaluable support from Laura Scherberger as water coach and David Crawley as a land trainer. Also, we got coaching and land training support from three other very experienced rowers: Paul Marquardt, Donna Etiebet of New Hall, and Maria von Furstenburg. Paul Marquardt even videotaped some of our water practices and races, which gave us a straightforward view of our technical progress. Over the year we trained two new coxes, who also put a lot of effort into the team: Martina Boerner and Maysa Saba.

Only later on we came to realise that such support is not at all the standard for college rowing crews. We were very fortunate to have all these enthusiastic and supportive rowers joining forces. This also meant that we were able to take a reasonably professional approach to prepare for the Bumps, including Conconi tests to determine individual threshold heart rates. We got acquainted with the ergs, i.e. the rowing machines in the Clare Hall gym and in the Clare boathouse, where we could train with 4-5 rowers simultaneously. Long erg pieces, intervals, lactate tolerance tests, core stability training, additional circuit sessions, and first and foremost actual rowing on the water: we did it all, and we saw ourselves improving month by month. Throughout the season, we averaged 2-3 water practices and two land training sessions per week. It turned out to be quite tricky to balance the boat and not to rush the slide. After months of water practices in the cold and wet Cambridge Winter mornings, we eventually managed to smoothly glide on the water in the Spring and the Summer. We saw our fitness levels rise and our heart rates, as well as our 2k times, drop, and some of us also picked up yoga. Marion Marquardt offered special “Yoga for Rowers” sessions at Clare Hall’s Richard Eden Room. Speaking of flexibility, balance, endurance, and last not least of delight: Unforgotten remain the ballroom dancing classes, conducted by Inka Borchers and Hannes Westendorf, which turned out to be frequented mainly by Boat Club members. These events might as well have been labelled “Dancing for Rowers”.

A screenshot of the online calendar of the men’s team, November 2004. Water practices are blue, land training is yellow, competitions are red, social events are green, and yoga is pink.

Doing all of this, we still allowed for individual training approaches of the team members, taking into account the considerable workload that all of us had to cope with. Rowing on the water turned out to be an ideal supplement to intense studying, clearing the head and supplying fresh energy. With a committed core crew, our team spirit grew and grew, and by employing an online calendar, set up by Treasurer Bernd Wittner, everyone knew all of the time what was going on. We had social gatherings with other College boat clubs, and now that we have gained some rowing respect in the course of the May Bumps, we are very well set to widen these contacts. Moreover, our mixed water practices, together with the Clare Hall Women’s team were a lot of fun and very helpful for improving our technique. We also cheered along for each other in some of the races. The men’s team participated in several competitions over the year: after the indoor Queen’s Ergo Competition starting with the Clare Novice Regatta (we knocked out Magdalene, then lost to Trinity’s First and Third), followed by the Fairbairn Cup, the Christmas Head, the Newnham Short Course, the Pembroke Regatta (we knocked out Hughes Hall, then lost to Darwin), the Lent Bumps (we got bumped by Magdalene II on the first day and then rowed over on the following three days), the Champions Eights Heads, and finally the May Bumps. What a rowing season!

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