M1 raced in the Fairbairn Cup at the end of a long, hard, training-filled Michaelmas Term. The race took place on the Friday after week 8.
The Final Preparation
A week before the race we were facing our last few sessions before the Cup. We met at the boathouse at 6:45 in time for an early 7:08 push off. We were all sat ready in the boat with a few minutes to spare. However, we realised that nobody had the means to check if it was time for us to push off. We decided that we would wait until the other boats pushed off and then push off when they did. I looked over Paav’s head to see the crews from Tit Hall and Jesus sat by the bank, as well. I saw the bow of a Jesus boat swing out into the middle of the river and so told Paav this. He decided that it must be time to push off and go, and so we did. However, I had forgotten that Jesus like to push off and sit in the middle of the river for no apparent reason and so it might not have actually been time for us to go. Unfortunately, it was too late and so we rowed on down the river past the other boathouses. Soon we were at the lock and we agreed that we should try to do better the things that we weren’t doing well and to keep doing well the things that we were doing well. On the way back we did some fast rowing followed by some slow rowing and then some more fast. At the end of our last piece a Kings novice boat coming towards us decided it would be a good idea to row on the wrong side of the river. We held it up in an effort to stop them hitting us but it was too late. Their bow became fixed in my rigger and it was quite a while before we managed to remove it. When we were finally back at the boathouse, we agreed that our rowing had been quite good despite the small crash.
The Saturday before the race we faced a double outing over the lock with David Winch coaching. We rowed through the Clare Novices’ Regatta and headed over the lock. Philip remarked that we should go over the lock every week and I thought that this was a good idea. However, another of Philip’s ideas had been to do many more morning outings which resulted in much complaining from the rest of the crew.
Two days before the race we had our last outing. I awoke at 6:20am before the sun had risen and started to make my way to the boathouse. When I arrived I was pleased to see that the crew were on time and that our coach Michael was there ready for us. We rowed up to the lock focussing on building a sustainable rhythm. At the lock we once again agreed that we should try to do better the things that we weren’t doing well and to keep doing well the things that we were doing well.
Nathan Jay had decided that it was time for a crew social the day before the race so we all went to the MCR Christmas formal that night in Sidney hall. I thought that since it was the night before the big race – the culmination of all this terms work – that I should not drink any alcohol. However, Timothy Schmalz (Captain of the Boats) beer-pressured me into drinking saying ‘come onnnnnnnnnn’. So I decided to have one glass of sparkling wine so as to keep up with the boozey grads. That night we discussed many things such as how much we love erging and how much we should train next term.
The next morning I woke bright and early hyped for the race. I arrived at the boathouse at 8:30am and saw that the race conditions were good. It had snowed the day before but fortunately was now clear with little wind. We saw Oriel M1 come past and I asked Philip if he knew them since he went to Oriel one time. He said he didn’t.
We got into the boat and rowed down to marshaling. As we sat in the cold, I heard bow 4 laughing raucously about something – probably Rory Dyer cracking a joke for Philip’s amusement. However, since I was at stroke in stern 4, I wasn’t involved.
When we had waited for a very long time it was our turn to row up to the start line. Since we were chasing Catz M2 and Paav backed us 100%, he decided we needed a longer gap before starting to race. We pretended to be stuck next to a houseboat before rowing off. As we crossed the line, Paav called to wind up then lengthen out. We hit our race pace and settled into the rhythm. Cries of ‘Well done Sidney’ from our bank party, Tim Rhodes and Kate Shipley, carried us through the first third until we were past the Green Dragon bridge. Pair pushes took us to the Railway Bridge and then a firm 20 off the Railings carried us down the Reach. By this point we had gained to within 2 lengths of Catz, so the overtake was on our minds. As we came closer to Ditton, we gained further and Paav called for them to concede the line round the corner. By the Plough we were overlapping and we’re moving past them quickly. Catz put up a strong fight, meaning we were not completely clear by Grassy. However, some expert coxing by Paav meant we managed to take the inside line and avoid Catz. Joris’ blade very nearly hit the bow of the Catz boat, but Paav later remarked that this was all part of his precise line. Coming into First Post we were pushing off the Catz boat and hitting a solid rhythm. Unfortunately at this point one of the wheels on Günther’s seat decided it wasn’t going to stay on anymore. (After debating this heavily at BCD, we came to the conclusion that this was because Günther is so massive). This meant that Günther could not use his slide anymore, so had to stop rowing. Having not realised this, Jeremy shouted for us to ‘get it together’ and Günther shouted out ‘my slide, my slide!’ indicating that something was wrong with his slide. The quick-thinking Nathan Jay shouted for him to ‘fix it,’ however, no solution was found. Günther decided to row the rest of the race arms and backs only. We soon realised that this was exactly the same as Günther rowing normally, so we pushed through the last few hundred meters, with Paav calling for us to build the rate in a big sprint. We crossed the line and wound it down – all completely exhausted.
Back at the boathouse we agreed that it had been a successful race even though we were quite unlucky with Günther’s seat. We left satisfied and excited for the night ahead of us at Boat Club Dinner.