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The Club's Results

Fairbairn Cup 2015

A 4300m timed head race on the Cam for VIIIs
Fri 4th December

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1st men's VIII, Senior VIIIs

5th Cambridge College, 11th overall
Time: 14:37.5
We kept the Winter Head crew unchanged for Fairbairns after another few fours outings. Once the crew was finalised, we had an eventful Earith weekend which we thought would enable us to improve significantly while the other college crews were unable to row on the Cam: we battled high waves on the Saturday and posted quite a good 5k time in calm conditions on the Sunday. This prompted Tom to propose to rig the Empacher, a proposition that we welcomed unanimously as a crew, as rowing in the Wintech had been rather tricky despite the good technical improvements that we made while rowing in it. Unfortunately, we didn't quite find the sit and relaxation that had characterised some of our earlier rowing this term in the pre-race outings, with a bit of nerves linked with the boat and possibly the upcoming race leading to slight twitchiness and difficulties in rocking over quite as well as we had practised in the other boats.

We woke up early for a pre-race paddle (allowed exceptionally by the Fairbairns secretary due to heated discussions with his own mens' captain) which was marginally better than some of the previous days' outings but still lacked proper balance and relaxation. We tried to ignore the excitement of the novice races to focus properly on the upcoming race. The mood was one of determination and the erg warm-up with bursts allowed us to settle in to the race mentality that we needed.

The race plan was simple; given three equal sections of the race, we had three respective focuses: from the start to Chesterton corner: PLATFORM; from there to the end of the Reach: POWER; from Ditton to the finish: TECHNIQUE. This meant, more specifically, that we shouldn't go nuts during the first five minutes, and build up a proper platform for the power application afterwards. The middle part was self-evident, and the last focus would be necessary to keep the boat moving well through the pain and the technical corners.

The general consensus was that we executed the race plan, but that a little more power and rate would have been required to make up the 3.5 seconds to a more positive 3rd place finish (I'm excluding the Oxford colleges, who really shouldn't be competing for time, and CULRC, who were rowing time only). We started strong and a little less frantic than in some of the practise pieces, then strode down to rate 32, but it took at least a minute, until we had cleared the wash under the Elizabeth Way road bridge, to actually find a proper platform. We worked to improve this platform during the next 3-4 minutes, but lost time to Maggie and most other crews who had a more front-loaded race plan during this period. The push off Chesterton footbridge was quite strong, but the power sagged significantly from the P&E to the railway bridge. We had an awesome lift in power and commitment at the railway bridge, and we finally found our race form. The last half of the race is a bit of a blur in my memory, but we kept the power high and had awesome corners. The push down first post reach took the power even higher, and we wound to the finish at high rate, albeit losing a little cohesion at the very end.

The row-back was quite fun indeed: we experimented with Dutch rowing with pausing at the finish in the crucifix position, rocking over stupidly far so that the Zoe could see between bow pair, and had to stop often due to Queen's being blocked by slow crews in front.

People were understandably somewhat disheartened by the 5th place finish as we thought that the training that we did during the last few weeks would have given us a significant edge, but the result should not overshadow a great term of rowing with great people in a great crew. Despite the odd outing where things did not quite go our way, and the difficulties related to work, rowing, LBCing, etc., I am definitely glad to have been able to row with this crew this term and to have achieved a really nice result that shows our improvement throughout the term and suggests that much speed is still to be found.
(Neil I.)
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2nd men's VIII, Senior VIIIs

2nd M2
Time: 15:28.2
We had our first outing the Sunday before the race, in heavy wind, and it was awful. Fairbairns promised to be a miserable 17 minutes of soggy rowing. The crew's second outing, on the Wednesday, was apparently somewhat better (including a 5k 2k), but at this point there was little confidence in having a good row.

As it happened, it was decent! We got to the boathouse and decided there was little point in being conservative. We'd try and set up a rhythm and then give as much as we could in that. The start was a little bit scrappy, but we settled onto a good rate (somewhere in the 30-32 region). Then we had the call to finish square, and actually executed it. This improved the rowing immeasurably. I think the application of power round the back end (we were racing, after all) helped bring the finishes 'together'.

At this point, there was enough experience in the boat to know that with this platform, we could work, and so we did. The finishes were lost at points, but having remembered once we were always able to recover. Although the power dropped through the race, this wasn't substantial, and we had a committed lift to the finish.
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BPBC 3rd men's VIII, Invitation VIIIs

Does it really matter?
Time: 15:53.7
Fairbairns is the longest race on the Cam, where the men are sorted from the boys, and, in the invitational category, the gentlemen from the brutes. I was proud to row with one of the most gentlemanly crews in the race. We had three aims:

  1. Find eight rowers and a cox
  2. Beat the novices
  3. Highlight the splendour of previous Black Prince crews
We achieved all three magnificently.

Some aspects of preparation began even before we got into the boat. Tom and I both felt that rowing at 3 was our natural calling, and after much discussion I rowed at 3b while Tom rowed at 3d. It turned out that the shoe sizes didn't allow for that crew order, but this year we had had the foresight to test every last detail (well, quite a few details) before the race even started and we were able to swap them before we pushed off.

Onto the race itself. I remembered that last year I'd set off a bit too hard, so I made sure I didn't repeat that. I recalled from my rowing days that the third quarter of a race is traditionally where you have to make it count, so I took the second one easy to make sure I had something in the tank. I didn't know precisely where the second quarter started or finished, so I took a conservative view. By the time the third quarter came round, I was preparing myself mentally for the wind for the finish, so it sort of came and went before I noticed. The finish line of Fairbairns is always a bit further past the A14 bridge than I expect, so I made sure I didn't set off too soon, and then really gave it my all. What a stroke that was. I had planned to row much harder for much longer, but unfortunately I couldn't get the tourniquet tight enough while rowing with one hand and scrabbling around in the footwell for the syringe with the other.

Over the first minute of the race I was reintroduced to the Byrne microclimate. I said something to the effect of 'I'm not going to lie to you, Matt - I'm already quite wet.' (I wasn't breathing particularly heavily.) AND HE STOPPED. Oh my. It was heaven. The rest of the race was stroke after stroke of sheer unbridled dryness. Why did no one think of just asking him a decade ago? After the race, while waiting for the final crews to float over the finish line, I was forced to share a pair of flip flops with Jon, which in some ways was one of the low points of my existence.

The final consensus was that this was more fun than last year, and if we're not going to win it then we might as well enjoy it. Syncopated rowing worked pretty well too.
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5th men's VIII, Lower VIIIs

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4th men's VIII, Lower VIIIs

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3rd men's VIII, Senior VIIIs

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