Our Novice Women had a hard act to follow this term after last year’s novice women’s successes, but they took on the challenge with open arms and worked with dedication throughout the term towards the ultimate race of Michaelmas: Fairbairn’s. Leading the Novice Women’s division, the girls began as they intended, with a relaxed yet powerful start which certainly impressed the large group of Catz supporters who had come down to cheer them on (unconfirmed reports suggest we had the largest bank party on record..!). Making 2.7km look as easy as Queen’s Ergs, the girls maintained an excellent rhythm and focus right up to the finish line, with our cox Harriet taking some excellent lines, and the crew responding to calls of ‘power 10’ with great effect. An exceptional race overall, putting the girls in 10th place out of a total of 57 novice women’s crews. This result really does highlight the progress made and dedication the crew has shown over the course of the term, and I am sure we’ll see this group of amazing no-longer-novice women return in Lent with even more determination and success!
Entering three Men's Novice Boats into the Fairbairn Cup for the first time in many years, we felt that the term had already been a successful one - any strong race results would be the icing on the cake.
Leopards (NM1) were the first to race, and got off to a strong, if relaxed, start. So relaxed, in fact, that certain members of the crew weren't even aware that the race had started! The crew held a good rate throughout the course. Leopards' control and composure meant that they could easily have been mistaken for a senior crew to anyone watching from the bank, and finishing 9th overall they achieved a time that many seniors would be pleased with too.
Jaguars (NM2) were next. Thanks to some chaotic marshalling, they found themselves behind Selwyn NM5: not an ideal situation for the Clare Novices' Plate holders. Despite being given an enormous (90s) time gap, Jaguars still managed to catch them by Chesterton Footbridge, and Maria had to call a rate drop to avoid a crash. Fortunately this lasted for only a short time before Jaguars swept past on the inside line. Jaguars completed the race as strongly as they started it, finishing fifth overall and in doing so claiming the title of 'fastest second boat'.
Perhaps a special mention should go to Kieran Hall, who rowed for Jaguars having already subbed in for Leopards earlier in the day, and gave his all to both performances.
Panthers (NM3) followed strongly behind Jaguars, and should be very proud of their performance. Maintaining a solid rate throughout the course they avoided any major incident to finish ahead of a good deal of other third boats and even Trinity Hall NM1.
The real victory at this Fairbairn Cup is one that belongs to the whole novice squad - the strong results from all crews reflect a real strength in depth, that was only possible thanks to the enthusiasm and and commitment of all this year's novices, whether they rowed in fairbairns or not. With so many keen novices becoming seniors, next term should be an interesting one!
The weeks of preparation culminated in us sitting in our boat under the Fort St Geoge Bridge freezing to death waiting for the start of Fairbairns. The day hadn't started off particularly well as when we arrived at the boat house we realised that, with two alumni crews and M1 racing in the division before us, we didn't have any blades or a cox box, and they had managed to take our numbers with them too. However, whilst marshalling for the start with our own personally designed and hand crafted numbers, we felt as prepared as we could be for the 3.6k that was to come.
Rowing up to the start we could see that the alumni and M1 were back and were watching us from the bank so we were determined to show off and do a flying start. Somehow we actually managed this and had the best start of the term which sent us shooting off down the river rating about five pips higher than we had mangaged during the whole rest of term. Despite all being a bit shocked at how easy '33' can feel when we are all doing the same thing at the same time we managed to sustain this for pretty much the whole rest of the race. Our cox, Beth, expertly steered us through all the windy bits and managing to make the corners feel light and easy, which we were extremely grateful for!
We powered it home down the reach and across the finish line. Once we had managed to detach our frozen claw hands from the blade handles the general feeling was one of satisfaction that we had done everything we could on the day to make the wheel proud. Our efforts were rewarded with a creditable 5th place out of the 12 Cambridge Women's IVs, even beating the two '1927' crews who I have been informed are very good. We beat our result from last year, and were 37 seconds faster (of which I am told the stream only accounts for 15). We would like to say thank you to Georgie Plunkett for coaching us, we could not have done it without you.
Bring on Lent Term!