It was freezing on the day of Fairbarns 2017, but W2 arrived at the boathouse ready to row our best and show off how much we had improved, both individually and as a crew, over the course of the term. After a quick warm up on the ergs, we quickly got the boat out, only to find out that the race was running late. As we waited for our slot and watched other crews row past, the excitement was mounting.
Finally it was our time! As we had only rowed a short distance from our boathouse to the start line, it took us a few strokes to get into our groove, but we quickly got our legs working as we fought away the cold. At stroke, Beth set a strong, steady pace for us to follow, and Watson and Issy kept us motivated from the bank. Despite the cold, and the fact that this was the longest race we’d done as a four, we managed to keep our rate up throughout, helped greatly by Alice’s encouragement. After a strong start, we began to gain on Girton, and we kept up this good pace for the first half of the race. The fatigue got to us, however, and the Robinson crew behind us began to gain. As we neared the end of course, this in fact proved to be a blessing in disguise, as we rowed our hardest to hold them off.
Fairbarns 2017 was a great way to end Michaelmas rowing. Although the whole crew was suffering from end of term exhaustion, we worked well together and put into practice changes to our techniques that we had been working on all term. Fairbarns Dinner after the race was the perfect way to celebrate our accomplishments!
Juhi James, bow
With what had promised to be a bitterly cold day brightening up, W1 paddled Octopussy (complete with a couple of new pairs of shoes) down to Jesus Boathouse and the start line. Nerves were high, with this being the first time some crew members had ever faced the senior Fairbairns course.
After two strokes we built up to a strong rate, and settled quickly into a sustainable rhythm. Utilising the joint experience of the Michaelmas line up, we battled past the one minute mark, and kept going strong down the Reach. With Newnham nowhere in sight behind us, and as we made a gain on Pembroke W1, Murray Edwards strode to the finish line, bringing it up a couple of pips on the legs past First Post and towards the motorway bridge.
We definitely did ourselves proud, although on reflection we realised that we had saved ourselves a little too much for the final stretch of the long Fairbairns course. Nevertheless, Fairbairns and the rest of the term were celebrated in style at a fabulous Fairbairn Dinner.
Leanne Hagger, 3
Winter Head was W1’s first race of the term and of the new academic year, and being my first race in about a year and a half, it is pretty fair to say that I was dreading the thought of a 2.5km race.
As we rowed up to marshal, we took the opportunity to focus on our timing and balance, with the help of some last-minute coaching from Robert. By the time we reached the Lock, our spirits were high despite the cold and wind, helped by a bag of Haribo sweets being passed up and down the boat.
After a solid, if slightly early start, we settled into our strong, sustainable racing rhythm we had being practising all term. Before long, we were coming around Ditton and onto the Reach, with Robert telling us that Clare were overtaking Caius ahead of us and that he wanted us to do the same. And with Robert and Christina’s encouragement we slowly began to move up on Caius. As we came under the Railway Bridge and Christina called for us to pick it up, we really began to move, reducing the distance between us and Caius with every stroke, crossing the finish line only seconds after them.
Although we didn’t place as highly as we had hoped, this Winter Head was a brilliant chance for us to get some (very promising) racing practice in before Fairbairns, where we hope to do even better.
Maria Rust, stroke
This was W2’s first race of term and, for two of the crew, their first race with MECBC. W2’s term had got off to a somewhat uncertain start, going from a rolling crew of five, down to four, and back up to a rolling five, before eventually settling as a four – better late than never!
Unfortunately our cox, Alice, and our coach, Watson, weren’t able to be with us for the race, but Christina stepped in to save the day and her boyfriend Tristan gave support from the bank. By the time our division was marshalling, it was clear that they were running behind, resulting in four very chilly rowers, with Tamzin, being Australian, feeling it the most.
The cold was quickly forgotten when we began the race with our five powerful strokes to get us up to race pace. We got off to a good start and quickly pulled away from the Four that was following us. The majority of the race was quiet, making it hard to keep the power on, but Christina’s calls kept us motivated and strong. The most exciting part of the race, and our biggest motivation, was an Octuple scull trying to overtake us towards the end. Despite them having twice as many people and four times as many oars, we gave them a good fight, pushing harder to make it difficult for them. We got to experience Christina going ‘nuclear’, and this was the best we’d rowed during the race (partly out of fear)!
As always, we ended our race with a trip to the pub and a well-deserved pint. We were all really proud of each other for how far we’ve come, with the help of Watson, from where we started. Now we’re even more excited to keep working hard in the run up to Fairbairns!
Saturday for W2 dawned bright, sunny and nerve-wracking, with St. Edmund’s W1 keen to get revenge for the previous day’s row over behind us, and us aiming to bump Tit Hall back after we were bumped by them on Wednesday. We were all hopeful, though, and despite Nadia’s unexpected flat tyre half way to the boathouse (and despite my getting stung by some kind of plant on the bank as we were pulled in), we made it to the P&E to marshal in perfect time with no major setbacks.
The tension was certainly palpable on our row up to the start, but our practice start in front of the Plough was strong and very fast, and we hoped that would put us in a strong position for the real thing. We waited nervously at our station, on the outflow again, and as the four-minute and one-minute guns went off, the rowers prepared themselves to row as hard as they could, while I prepared myself to take the corners as tightly as I could, and to keep the crew motivated and pushing with all their strength.
We were pushed out late to account for the outflow, and it felt like no time at all before the gun went off, and our final day of May Bumps 2017 had begun! Our start was strong, though unfortunately so was Eddie’s, and so was Tit Hall’s. We kept our distance from Eddie’s all the way to First Post Corner, and though they started to make gains around Grassy, a strong Power Ten pushed them further away. We were still staying strong all the way past the Plough, and we got onto the first part of the Reach before Eddie’s finally made contact, and both crews moved to the bank and off the racing line.
Though the result of Saturday’s race was disappointing, the incredible row over of the day before meant that none of us were too disheartened, and the thought of not having got spoons kept us cheery. The crew’s rowing improved hugely with every day of Bumps (and we did the whole of Saturday’s race between rates 35 and a half and 38!), and we were just unlucky in that we had strong crews around us who were just that little bit faster on the day. We’re all nonetheless very proud of our Bumps campaign this year, and hopefully we can bump Eddie’s back next year!
Alice Levin, cox
It was the final day of Bumps, with a predicted temperature of about 32 degrees. No clouds, no wind, racing early afternoon in the blazing sun. Yikes! Trying to stay courageous, we focused on tactics for the race ahead. After the triumph of the first day, we had two tough row-overs chasing Trinity Hall W1 and being chased by Newnham W2. The previous day we had a very strong row, with every crew rowing their very best, and today could be no different. The aim was simply to get out there and row like we knew how to row, and to stay on Trinity Hall’s tail until they made a mistake.
Rowing from the marshalling zone, the sun was killing us. Stopping briefly in front of the Murray Edwards alumnae picnic, sympathetic shouts about the heat were encouraging but did little to lighten our burden. For the final ten minutes before the cannon, the crew actually had to get out of the boat and sit in the shade for a bit just to recover some strength. Getting back into the boat, we all tried to focus, thinking that the better we rowed, the sooner we’d be able to get out of the sun. And the cannon went! We started out strong, keeping pace with Trinity Hall, the wind generated from the boat’s speed a refreshing relief. On the corner, however, something didn’t feel quite right. There was a wobble, then another. All of a sudden we passed Trinity Hall! They had bumped Kings W1 ahead of them! And Newnham behind us were really going for it. As we went around Grassy Corner and onto the Plough Reach they were just off our stern, but we wouldn’t let them get us easily. With our remaining strength we kept them where they were for the whole of the Plough Reach, but sadly as we reached Ditton Corner they finally bumped us. We worked hard, but they worked harder!
Rowing back to the boathouse slightly disappointed, we were still pleased with our performance over the Bumps campaign and were proud to have drawn level in the charts. Encouraged by this, we focused on enjoying our last row together as a crew.
Amanda Sjödahl, 7
It was the third day of Bumps for W3, and there was a feeling of apprehension amongst the crew. Our inability to catch King’s the previous day before they caught Anglia Ruskin meant that we now had to face the possibility of being bumped by Darwin from behind if once again we were not speedy enough in bumping. Four of our crew met for a crew lunch at the Fort Saint George, where we discussed tactics with Ying and Reana – essentially, we had to ‘fly or die’.
Our row up went without problems. Theoretically we could pull this off, as we had almost caught King’s, who had caught Anglia Ruskin; therefore, we could catch Anglia Ruskin too. However, as we marshalled, the Darwin coach approached us, asking if we were intending to bump today, and to clear the river quickly after our obstruction of their crew on the Wednesday. Odd.*
Our start was very strong – we got a shout out on Cam FM for best start in the division, in fact – and as the race began our chances looked good. We took a tight corner on Grassy and gained three whistles on Anglia Ruskin, but we were not quite able to seal the deal, and a wide corner later, Darwin came out of nowhere to bump us out of Ditton. However, this was by far the best rowing we had done as a crew, and I was very proud of us.
Clara Percival, 2
*N.B. It would seem that Darwin had been planning to overbump once we had caught Anglia Ruskin, to put them at the top of the division, as they clearly had been holding back on power; this was further emphasised the following day when they caught Anglia Ruskin in under a minute.
After two bumps in as many days, W2 were out to make a comeback as Friday dawned bright and sunny. After some substitute-based palaver earlier in the week, I was to row after all. Thus, we had a full crew ready to race after Newnham W3 and away from St Edmund’s W1.
The row down was solid. We had a clean start in front of the Plough and, after some shouting from Mark, achieved a decent amount of cover with each stroke up to our station. Our station on Friday was on the outflow, but we didn’t let this disrupt our focus on the start.
The cannon went off and we were soon executing our best start of the term. We achieved whistles on Newnham almost immediately – quite an achievement after being bumped by them just after Grassy the day before. The rest of the race saw us at our best. Power tens and a restart helped us keep St Eddie’s at bay as we rowed over the whole of the course.
It is safe to say exhaustion had never felt so good. Despite our row over, costing our cox Alice her voice, the whole crew were incredibly proud to have shown Newnham some real fight and to have beaten off St Ed’s. We rowed so fast that I also managed to catch my train in time. Yay! The row put us in excellent spirits for the fourth and final day of Bumps.
Hope Mason, bow
It was the second day of our Bumps campaign. We were motivated by the success of the previous day, when we had bumped Fitzwilliam’s W2 in fewer than fifty strokes. Now we were chasing King’s W2, and we knew that this boat wouldn’t be easy prey. However, we were ready to give everything we had to catch them.
The weather was nice, sunny and warm, though there was a head wind blowing downstream and against the direction of the race, thus making our job more difficult. Two of our alumnae, Reana and Ying, followed us to the start and supported us during the whole of the race. The start was nerve-wracking. We waited for the first cannon, then the second, then the third, and then started with our first draw and wind strokes. After a powerful start sequence, we went off at a very firm rate, cutting the first corner, then being very risky on Grassy Corner, going very fast, hearing whistles all the while. Our cox shouted that we were so close, and I wondered how close we actually were. Our power was dropping with each stroke, until we were asked to hold it up. After a moment of confusion, we realised that King’s had bumped Anglia Ruskin, who were at the top of our division. We were so close to bumping them that we had to stop as well, and we were awarded a technical row over.
On the way back to the boathouse, we were not able to calm our racing hearts, or our coughs – the kind of cough that appears after a sprint and which makes you feel like you are tasting blood. Even though we did not bump, it was an unforgettable racing day for me.
Lisa Al-Faradzh, 3
It was another beautiful day in Cambridge and W2 were feeling confident and ready to get the revenge bump on Trinity Hall. Even though yesterday hadn’t gone our way, we knew with a quick start and hard first minute we were in with a good chance! The row down was solid and flowing well and the boat felt rejuvenated. Our practice start outside the Plough was very quick, faster than most during training, and so we were all nervous but eager to go when we reached our station.
The cannon went and we pushed off hard. The draws and winds came fast and furious, feeling more settled then the day before. Behind us, it was clear Newnham W3 had started well and were creeping up on us. As we all pushed through to lengthen the strokes, Newnham continued to advance up to First Post Corner, gaining two whistles. Out of the corner, despite the boat close behind, our cox Alice called for a restart and took us through the draws and winds again to find a new push. This brought the crew back to a new focus and we drove forward towards Grassy.
Around Grassy, despite the poise and power in our boat, Newnham pushed further up on us, gaining some overlap. This did not stop us though; all of us were determined to keep rowing hard. Unfortunately, just after Grassy, Newnham’s cox took a clean line and managed to get physical contact, and thus a bump on our stern.
The day has not given us the result we had hoped for, but our row was strong and we never gave up. Throughout the race, we all pushed hard but Newnham were just quicker on the day. Tomorrow is a fresh start, and most importantly we have learnt we can keep pushing through in difficult situations and will keep fighting until the end!
Nadia Blackshaw, 7