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Novice Fairbairn Cup 2014

A 2700m timed head race on the Cam for Cambridge College novice VIIIs
Thu 4th December

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1st men's novice VIII, 1st division

2nd NM1 (lost to LMBC)
Time: 10:00.1
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. This was probably the most disappointing race that myself and the rest of the crew had rowed in up until this stage, and probably since as well.

We were almost certain that we were going to win. We hadn't lost a single race all term. We had dominated Clare Novices, with our closest race being against LMBC in the final, whom we beat by ~1 length. The last week of term was hectic, with us not being able to get much quality training due to novice carnage on the river. LMBC, who rowed in the afternoon, were not impeded in their training. We got nervous at the prospect of making history by being the first 1st & 3rd novice eight to win Fairbairns in several decades. LMBC wanted the win badly and had their best row of all term. We wanted it badly but lost composure and lost to LMBC... less than 3 seconds.

There were many ways in which we could have taken the requisite 4 seconds off our time. We all blamed ourselves for the result, thinking about how extra focus, a few percent more power or additional cohesion would all have sufficed. Sadly, none of these things came to pass on the day. Despite the frustration, I think that that race was a crucial point in many of the crew members' rowing career. We realised how much pain we had to put ourselves through to win; we found out just how important relaxation and composure were in race circumstances; and we realised that even from the most upsetting moments, it was possible to bounce back and perform better than ever before. And in a way, all but the loss to LMBC was more than made up for with the row that we had on the next day in Senior Fairbairns.
(Neil I.)
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2nd men's novice VIII, 1st division

6th, Fastest NM2
Time: 10:43.4

We jumped in the boat, got straight and off we went. Our draw strokes went quite well, and our wind brought the rate up to a pretty decent 35 which, despite frequently called surges, refused to go away for the first minute or two of the race. Eventually we decided to settle on a reasonable 32 which we kept up for the remainder. Broadly, we had a very smooth row, with only a handful of fluffed strokes leading to our fantastic overall result (6th! You guys rock). On the way we passed a sheepish looking Jesus boat parked on the outside of Elizabeth Way, giving me my first opportunity to tell somebody to keep clear and not pull out. A variety of legs calls intermingled with the occasional call to sharpen up those finishes got us through to Chesterton where it became obvious that we were gaining on the crews in front of us. We were closing quite quickly on Peterhouse (as evidenced by them finishing 41s behind us) but not nearly so quickly as we both were catching Robinson (2'29'' behind). Overtaking crews is fun, it has to be said, and we used this to spur us on under the Railway Bridge and onto the final straight. We picked up the pace and on the whole kept the rowing together and pushed on over the line. Rob's main thought after the race seemed to be that throwing me in would make him really very happy - sorry to have escaped you there. Maybe next term. We pulled in, wandered around, chatted to NM1, and accidentally missed the end of NM3's race before pushing off and doing a lot more overtaking on the row home.

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1st women's novice VIII, 2nd division

Fastest Women's Crew, 15th Overall!
Time: 11:02.7
We were so eager to go, all of us champing at the bit, still high on the adrenaline from Clare novices,  keen to convert our try (yes, I know my metaphors are all over the place ^^), and prove we were indeed the best women novices on the water.  
Listening to Neil's advice, we attacked the race with the aim of sustaining a good 30spm. This was a bit higher than what we had previously envisioned, but given the quality of the opposition, we agreed that we would need to step up our game. And step it up we did, 32 on average. We went there knowing that it would be crucial to stay composed and stay together, even at high rate, and even when tired. According to the fierce "yeaaaaaaaahs" coming from the bank party (to be honest I didn't hear much more than that, and "sit up tall"), we looked good!
Overall, it went by really fast, but contrary to Emma sprints or Clare novices, with more than 2k, you have time to think about several technical points that need to be corrected, so that we can do even better next time (which turns out to be... today!)
(Zoe W.)
It was a long race, but went by surprisingly quickly.
Specific memories from during the race:
Getting the shivers just before the start (must have been the adrenaline)
Outside one of the boathouses was someone taking a photo. Saying to myself 'look composed, look composed'
The most massive bank party
Hearing rather a lot of squealing brakes as the entire bank party attempted to brake on the bridge
'Yeah girls'
Fluffing a stroke and pulling a face I'm glad nobody saw
Liv shouting 'Do it for Penny!'
Being told we were gaining on Christs
Final push on the reach
Crossing the line and finally being able to look over and see Christs directly next to us
Having to keep rowing away from the finish
Pulling in and getting out and eating Minstrels and hugging each other
Liv casually mentioning we were rating 32 (32!) for most of the race
Walking back up the course to watch NW2 row
Running alongside NW2 with an even bigger bank party
Yelling myself hoarse (again)
Paddling back in style
Gliding past crews on the way back at rate 16
The entire bank party yelling at Fordy
Liv subsequently not listening the the bank party at all
A beautiful corner steered by Liv
Back to the boat house and that was that

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3rd men's novice VIII, 1st division

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4th men's novice VIII, 3rd division

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2nd women's novice VIII, 2nd division

Time: 12:52.7
We chatted beforehand and made sure everyone was warmed up and as ready as possible - there were quite a few understandable nerves, especially seeing as NW1 had poached our stroke girl. Luckily, when we got into the boat and started racing, everyone performed admirably. Christi did an excellent job keeping the rate at about 29 for the duration of the race, and after a choppy first 30 strokes or so everyone got into the rhythm she was setting - even more impressive given we had two subs in the boat, due to illness and injury (well done to you guys for fitting in so successfully)! After getting into rhythm we had a successful race with a well moving boat and plenty of dedication. We passed a Murray Edwards crew which seemed to have done a good job of writing off their bows just before the White Bridge and they enthusiastically cheered us on (thanks Murray Edwards!). Passing Chesterton, I took the corner from a little bit too central and had to ask for some more strokeside pressure which got us round successfully. As we reached the P&E our bank party, already large with members of the club who'd coached us that term or were otherwise excited by what we could do, essentially doubled in size. Continuing to row towards the railway bridge our bank party swelled even further as the whole of NW1 ran down to cheer us on - we must have had well over 20 people there; it was absolutely amazing. Buoyed up by this amazing level of support and noise from the bank we pushed off the bridge and had a strong row through to the finish line.

A weak throw from the bank followed by some backing it down gave the tired crew some well-deserved minstrels (thank you Matt G!) before some cheeky spinning put us in a good position for the row home. This was the first time the cox box stopped working.

A shout out to Lea who managed the race on the wrong side with a very painful wrist, a fantastic effort from everyone, and the highest one of our second novice women's VIIIs has come for over ten years!
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