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The Club's Results

Fairbairn Cup 2011

1st women's VIII (Senior VIIIs)

Coxed by: Alex Manion

8th in College VIIIs
Time: 17:52
On the Reach our race turned into a full length bumps race, rarely seen in women's divisions. We can really be proud of how we pushed off Christ's, rating 33-34 (?!)

However, this shows that we didn't have to get ourselves into that position in the first place and to do well in Lents, we'll have to push hard without having a boat at our stern. That second half is something to build upon! (Nina)
(?!) ?!
Why would you not be at 33-34?
The second half (which I saw from the plough onwards) looked cohesive and committed; to translate this into boatspeed and results, you need to find the power to match your competitors. (Peter)
If you had asked me early on in term what would make Fairbairns a success for me, I would have said to have eight girls turn up, on time and uninjured for the race. By the end of term, my expectations were much higher.

After some panicked starts in practice pieces, we started the race calmly, perhaps too much so. It was our intention to race our own race, without concern to those in front or behind us. The twisted course of the first half of Fairbairns allowed us to do this. We followed our plan of quick catches around the corners and a power 10 after each one, but the number and proximity of these meant that our power strokes started to run into each other and become worrying like race rhythm rather than a surge of speed. The ratio was 1-1 for most of the first half and I debated calling an up 1 down 1, concerned about how it would affect the pressure. I felt that things were starting to get out of hand after Chesterton and asked Alex to call it. Almost immediately afterwards, at the P&E, Iain started shouting for more pressure, confirming my suspicion that the call hadn't been the right one after all.

At the railway bridge we had a restart, and it was probably the single most important point in my cobbled-together race plan, as we would certainly need the change in mindset for what was coming next.

At the P&E I finally saw Christs coming around the corner, and struggled to remember where they had finished in Winter Head. I realized this was too much thinking and not enough pushing, so I put the blue blades out of my mind for the next few 100m. On the reach it became evident that Christs were moving on us, and our series of technical calls was abandoned in favour of Alex calling for us to push Christs away. I'm not sure how she knew how close they were getting, as I don't remember seeing her turn round, but perhaps it was just coxing instinct and Iain's suddenly more urgent calls for power and commitment.

After Ditton, I figured Christs were going to come by us and started worrying about where this was going to happen. I decided the safest place for this was First Post Reach, and so determined to hold them off till then.

In the second half of the race we found ourselves. Alex stubbornly held the racing line, forcing Christs wide around Ditton, Grassy and First Post, and gaining us valuable time. We stepped up the power and the rate to Iain's calls of 'FIGHT THEM! FIGHT THEM OFF!' and general clamour from the Christs bank party who obviously didn't read the 4 person limit rule. (I believe I fined them for that in Mays too...)

Christs gained on us quite quickly after the reach, but each time their bow ball crept closer we would find another power 10 to push them away again. The second half felt like a row over in bumps, complete with the heart-stopping (literally) panic of their bow overlapping your stern at 100m from the motorway bridge, when Alex finally responded to the calls for us to drift over. We did indeed fight them up to the finish line, and we held them. They didn't come by us. I think they were a bit annoyed not to have passed us, as the reply from the rowers to my congratulations on a good race was an order to move on.

I think the whole race was summed up well by what Iain said to me once I was back on land.
"I don't know whether to scream at you or cheer for you. You rowed like pants in the first half and fought like hell in the second!"
More of the second half next term, girls, please.

Thank you to everyone who coached us this term, to everyone who said it wasn't hopeless, who gave up their time and sleep to help us make sure it wasn't.

Thank you to the Christs men who helped us drag Valkyrie out of the water over the lock, to the Peterhouse guys who pulled us in and pushed us out in the post-Fairbairns marshaling. I hope the guy who looked like he should be taken away in an ambulance for hypothermia survived.

Most importantly, thank you to Christs W1. You pushed us, and shook us out of our complacency. You undoubtedly gave us a better time, while I'm sure we hindered yours. You were the faster crew by a large margin, but now that you've taught us to fight, I hope we can narrow it. See you in Lents. (Julia A.)
The last paragraph of Julia's report reminded me of Phil Horler's thanks here to Clare 1st Men, who were leading our men at the Railway Bridge in the quarter-final of the 2007 Pembroke Regatta, for "making us realise that every race is a fight". Learning to row is one thing, but learning to race is quite another.

Phil further states here, in his race reports for that regatta, that this was when he "truly started to believe we could and should take the headship". It's no exaggeration to say that that quarter-final race against Clare was a seminal result in the history of this club. I hope that this race proves to be the same. (Neil T)

1. W1_5
2. W1_4
3. W1_3

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