The Club's Results
Fairbairn Cup 2014
A 4300m timed head race on the Cam for VIIIs
Fri 5th December
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For BPBC M1 the pressure of regular cheating, warm-up races and in some cases 2k tests was a sharp reminder of all the fun that rowing can be. There were still a few introductions to be made on the start line, but we pushed off full of anticipation that we'd acquit ourselves if not admirably then at least better than everyone who raced at the Snowflake Regatta this year (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDvMBPZ5Bik). A fully functional cox box being obtained literally seconds before the start (sorry M3....), we settled into a surprisingly long and strong 32 off the start. Unfortunately by Emma footbridge I'd realised that my gate was done up too tightly, and that the next fifteen minutes would be spent in a mixture of square blades and desperate early squaring whilst trying to avoid my forearm from blowing. Thankfully the rest of the crew were unencumbered by this impediment, and were able to turn their attentions to actually pulling hard and using their legs. A lift coming out of Chesterton, plus further pushes down the course, came off rather well and appeared to result in a positive change in boat speed, rather than the more traditional temporary cessation of negative change. We were clocked at 15:25, which put us somewhat behind the better college crews (Jesus were top with 14:21), but ahead of all the second VIIIs and only 17s behind FaT.
It is more pleasant to row Fairbairns having done some training than no training, not because you push less hard, but because you know better how to pace yourself.
The cheating was a good opportunity to remind myself what reasonable rowing was and on the start line there was reasonable confidence that we could produce a solid result. In order to prevent any real benefit from the cheating we did decide to randomise the crew order from previous outings, with the only rule being that you weren't allowed to have rowed before this year in that seat.
More sessions were, however, required to fulfil the 10 outing requirement for the term though, so perhaps CUCBCBC should disqualify us.
The actual race was very much limited by our fitness, rather than our technique, while the boat was not perfectly sat I was happy that the balance was not preventing the application of POWER. We set off happily, with BP2 nipping at our heels. Coming down the reach we caught the Xpress crew ahead of us, and despite taking an age to come past remained firm and took the racing line through Ditton, with BP2 then surprisingly dropping off into the distance.
We came through the line with enough time to spin and park so Emma could head off and relieve her babysitter. We then pushed off an rowed home, attempting to irritate a Jesus women's crew, who insisted they needed to go infront of us, despite being far slower. Certainly an education for our Sub-Cox, whose name I can't remember (sorry), in how to be 'assertive'.
This is the most seriously I have ever taken a race; I had been on a two-year warm-weather training camp and had been tapering since October. In the spirit of inclusivity, Black Prince fielded a diversity VIII, where all were welcome: short, tall; weak, strong; good-looking, ridiculously good-looking. We arrived at 11, introduced ourselves to each other, started our alcohol ban, warmed up our excuses, and were ready to go.
Once we had all gone (our bladders aren't as strong as they used to be), we got in the boat and set off at approximately the time that Jesus (or his representatives here on earth) wanted us to. At this point, a few of us came to realise that the 'two-stroke practice' gag isn't as funny as we first thought, as the boat was inappropriately set up in various ways that would have been easily rectified if only we hadn't been bloody racing. That said, I'd rather be slow than have to marshal.
Our pace felt pretty sustainable initially, until it transpired that the race finished by a different road bridge. Fortunately, some of us had practised setting off too hard on an erg earlier in the week, and I had already worked out what I would say to myself when I needed to dig deep: 'when they ask you in the pub, just say you were pushing at your limit - they'll never know'. Experience has taught me that apathy is a more energy-efficient route to having no regrets than emptying the tank.
The rest of the race was a blur or, more accurately, I'm losing interest in reporting it. We took an eternity to overtake a crew down the reach, who eventually turned out to have dispiritingly white hair.
At the end of the race, we unfortunately didn't hear the marshal's instruction not to spin until it was too late to abort. I noticed that the other Black Prince crews suffered similarly. Obviously hearing declines with age, and we felt very foolish and are thinking of suing under the Equality Act 2010 for the distress caused. I also think Jesus women need to realise that 'the marshal told us we could go before you' doesn't cut much ice at Fairbairns if you're Jesus women.
Overall, a good row, with just two things missing: Jane and Coker.
I'm writing this race report more than a year on, and I realise that some of the finer details of the race will be absent from it.
After the frustration of the day before, we determined to have a great row to prove what we were capable of and what we had succeeded in developing all term as a crew. And unlike the previous day, our boat was sat, our rhythm was good and effective, the power was always there and everything was just as clean as it needed to be. We rated in the low 30s and gained on the crews in front of us. We even overtook an absolutely dire Sidney Sussex crew (starting four places in front of us) in the gut, and subsequently contributed to their entanglement with the bank after their cox refused to concede the racing line... ...oops.
We finished ahead of some M1s and many M2s and basically had the row that we knew that we could have had in Novice Fairbairns, except better, and returned, paddling at a really relaxed rate 14/15 to the boathouse, buoyed with high spirits at putting out a time which we knew finally reflected the quality of the crew.
I only found out I was doing this on the morning of the race, which is I feel in the best of Black Prince tradition. With no real idea of what to expect, we set off, at which point things started to go a bit wrong. Before the start, there had been a minor cox box panic, which had led to me giving my cox box to W2, as theirs had broken. As such I had no ratemeter and little ability to make calls. This wouldn't have been an issue, however the rhythm at which we set off may best be described as "potentially overenthusiastic". I have no way of knowing for sure, but I feel it was a punchy 35 ish. I would have started shouting to try and get more control, but frankly, I was having to much fun blazing down the gasworks wall. Anyway, we proceeded on, and predictably the rhythm started to control itself as people tired, however at Ditton things took a subtle turn for the worse, as Dan caught a crab. This would have been okay, however the gate was damaged, so we were reduced to sevens for the rest of the course, which probably made us a bit slower. I was told by the crew afterwards that we were still dropping the crew behind in sevens, so it wasn't too bad... Anyway, we reached the finish after a difficult but decent row, with a time which was pretty unrepresentative of the quality of the crew. Oh well.
So about 3 minutes before BP1 pushed off it was noticed that they couldn't find a working cox box. In some anticipation of this eventuality I may have carefully tried to hang onto the one I'd used for M4's race in the previous division, however, the eagle eyes and bright minds of BP1 saw through this plot and claimed a mixture of seniority by boat, by position in the boatclub and by the number of people in that crew who had coached me, in order to confiscate it. We put the Wintec on the water, the favourite boat of nobody at all, and tried desperately to make any of the other cox boxes work (which one did, for a glorious 2 seconds). It was decided that our start was 'do a start' and that nobody would be listening to me anyway.
So, we did a start, rowed a bit and people promptly realised why BP1 and BP2 had elected for the Jany's. To start with we moved along at a fair lick and a mixture of legs and bridge pushes got us to Chesterton where stroke caught a crab which knocked the front end of the backstay off the boat and put a bend in it. Nobody realised this until the finish line so after I had panicked, put the rudder on hard, waited for stroke to get back on his seat and narrowly missed the barges around Chesterton (again) we carried on business as usual, sending the boat behind us away (having asked to go in front of them on the basis that they looked quite slow we felt it would embarrassing to get caught).
After spinning in front of a load of boats who were patiently queuing (as is, apparently, normal) we started our very slow queue home. Highlights included trying to do square blades all 8 roll ups (I think), to the expectation and amusement of the crew behind us.
A consistent (-ly poor) and unspectacular row, in the best tradition of BPBC M3 crews. Wintech's David Jones may be a tricky beast, but at least it's not Peter Brandt. Shame about the crabbage, without which we'd at least have beaten all the women's crews.
5 years ago, this crew (albeit with one difference) went out and blazed everybody, however our reunion row was approached with slightly less preparation that the previous effort, so nerves were high before the start. We set off well rowing with decent precision, and about as much power as you might expect from a crew which had done little training (with a few exceptions). It was particularly telling in the corners, as the quality of the rowing made it pretty easy for me to get round them all in reasonable shape. In fact, I'm pretty certain that I made a better effort of the reunion row that I did the original... We proceeded on, gaining steadily on the crew in front, and rapidly dropping our pursuers, and finished with a pleasing wind for the line. In all the row was really pretty impressive - we finished ~36 seconds behind the top W1, and beat a few men's crews (Lol).
I'd like to thank all the girls for getting involved so this could happen, and Neil, TomO and Alex for bank partying etc. It's all very much appreciated, and I for one had a great day.
10 year reunion anyone?
I can't remember when Raf first sent us all a Facebook message suggesting we stage a reunion, but I am incredibly glad she did. It was a pleasant surprise that so many of the crew were willing and able to make it back for a race I've heard described as 'sadistic' for bufties. We very much missed Julijana (and hope her knee gets better soon!) but were extremely grateful to Julia R for subbing in so gracefully. The anticipation and nostalgia had been building for weeks to such a height that I felt none of the nerves described by Swords until I came to backstops for the first few strokes of the race and realized how long it had been since I last rowed on strokeside, and more concerningly, at rate. Around the Elizzabeth Way bridge, where others in the crew were blowing up, I decided that I had had enough practice on strokeside to begin to really start laying down the power.
Though not quite as slick as our rate 32, near perfect race in 2009, the row felt smooth and well paced. Swords kept us technical and motivated with terrifyingly tight corners and a few 'Yeah First and Third' calls. There were a few good moves to break up the monotony of the reach, before the welcome distraction of a Plough Reach Burn and the corners. We pushed up to close the gap on X-Press throughout the race, with steady and encouraging calls from the bank, sending me back 5 years. The wind for the finish possibly rivaled the original race for grit, though probably not in speed.
It was a pleasure to row with these ladies again, and to be reminded of what I consider to be the pivotal moment of my rowing career. I'm definitely keen for the next installment in 5 years time. Maybe by then my shoulders will have recovered,
Beat Jesus NM1
This was a longer and from my point of view much less smooth race than the day before. We put Jason and Adam in the boat (with a big fish little fish call designed to get them to stop quiching and start putting a bit of effort in) thinking that things would go a lot better with two senior subs in the boat. What ended up happening, however, was on the first draw stroke they got connected just that little bit earlier and managed to turn the boat a surprising amount. With the rudder hard over I let the start sequence look after itself, put the rudder hard over and bellowed for a bit of bowside pressure. Our angle lasted rather longer than I would have liked until finally we got straight but on the wrong side of the river (let's hope not too many people watching our race noticed), only 7's blade in the end clipping one of the barges. What with this stress over we settled on something like 30 where we valiantly stayed. While desperately trying to calm my nerves and get some race plan back in my head Dougall decided that what he wanted to do most, immediately before Elizabeth Way corner, was catch a crab - clearly he thought it would be embarrassing if we beat M1 and thought to nip that one in the bud. Luckily it was recovered quickly and we got back on some semblance of rowing, pushing off the bridges and gaining on Jesus who were ahead of us.
Sadly, this calm was not to last. Deciding that Adam had set a good precedent trying to screw up strokeside corners, Jason managed to break his seat on the approach into Chesterton. A decent effort from Dougall powered us round well enough for me to feel like my worry had been misplaced. Good job. A few tens of strokes out of the corner Jason thought he'd start rowing again and we promptly got back on Mission: Overtake Jesus. Some more surely indistinguishable shouting later and we were pushing off the bridge and trying to get the overtake before the end of the reach. Credit where it's due, Jesus did a sterling effort keeping us off, and we closed to with a handful of lengths round Ditton, Plough Reach, Grassy and then the gut (where I have a vague memory of trying to get the bump). Finally on First Post Reach I got to use the call Jason had been waiting for all race and asked (unnecessarily, it turned out) Jesus to clear the racing line. An enormous row for the last few hundred metres of the race (Ben's face illustrated the effort the boys had been putting into this race) and we crossed the line, about a length behind Jesus. A solid performance.
Standard Fairbairn's marshalling at the end gave us plenty of practice waiting, and we managed to be the last crew to leave the lock (Neil being Neil wanting to share some stollen with us). The delay at the far end as every crew decided to wait to let other crews push off and join the queue was really quite special. We might have looked a mite impatient.
Thank you to Emma S-C for giving Harry and me a lesson the evening before - from a personal point of view it increased the quality of the drivel I was producing no end, even though anything I thought of as carefully prepared went immediately out of my head.
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