Fairbairn Cup 2016 – King’s W1

Written by: Rebekka Thur

Well ahead of time, slightly nervous but excited for the race and equipped with Stan’s customary supply of peeled mandarins and sweets, W1 was ready for Fairbairn’s. Under the cheers of MAlumni we set off from the boat house and paddled down towards Jesus lock. However, quite quickly it became clear that there was an acute lack of marshals, and so we and a handful of other clueless crews ended up rowing/backing it down the same 20m-stretch of the river for the next hour or so before the first marshals arrived. We passed the time singing Christmas carols, although arguably with only three or four people making a committed effort, while the rest were silently battling the creeping hypothermia. As the line of marshalling boats finally started taking shape, MAlumni went past us and swiftly took off – clearly having gauged marshalling times better than us – whereas we had to wait for what felt forever until our number came up. Just as we were ready to join the queue at the starting line, we had to pull in for a last-minute pee-break kindly hosted by ‘Maggie’. After that the queue finally started moving and the race could begin.

We took off with a nicely controlled rolling start and settled for a consistent rate 33/34, which we kept up for the entirety of the course. Seeing the other boat houses go by and our own coming into sight was a mixture of relief and pain, knowing just how much was still left of the course – as someone had nicely put it before the race, once you’re gone past our boat house ‘it’s basically just a normal outing’. Already as we were approaching Green Dragon Footbridge it was clear that we were catching up with Jesus W2, whom we were chasing; and just before the Railway Bridge we began our overtake manoeuver. Jesus cleared the way for us and we overtook without any problems, having left them far behind by the end of the Reach. The next few corners passed uneventfully, until we came up to the final stretch before the Motorway Bridge. We were all absolutely shattered, our stroke intermittently letting out unintelligible cries, and everyone was just waiting to be allowed to drop their oar, when we got a completely unexpected and very effective boost from MAlumni, who had assembled under the bridge. Under the lead of last year’s captain, whom we had never before seen so wildly boisterous anywhere near a boat, the men gave us a massive cheer and our boat immediately picked up, to our own surprise I think. We finished the last 100m or so after the bridge on a high with a strong Power 10, and then finally completely collapsed as soon as we pulled in.

The time waiting for our row back home we spent coughing, recovering and chatting to the Selwyn Alumni crew pulled in next to us (strictly speaking we weren’t pulled in on the bank, but on the Selwyn boat), and by the time we were ready to push out again we were discussing the technical details of rowing back as a catamaran. We agreed to leave this experiment for another time and settled for a non-capsize-risky row home. Our coach being pragmatic as ever decided to start Lent training early to get a head start on the other crews and has us do Power 10’s on the way back to the boathouse. We made it back all in one piece and, agreeing that it had been a very good race, we decided to leave the race talk outside and turn instead to our well-earned post-race indulging – that is, Ellen’s masterly and lovingly made brownies. They tasted all the better after a race like this.

King’s W1 – 18:17.6

Cox: Ellen Berry

Stroke: Elizabeth Byrne

7: Tabitha Biller

6: Rebekka Thur

5: Freya Reevell

4: Danielle Jackson

3: Rachael Baker

2: Selena Deng

Bow: Niamh Mulcahy