Fairbairn Cup – 30th November 2012

M1 – Fairbairn Cup Senior Men’s Eight Winners
Fairbairns has been the main focus of Michaelmas for M1. From the beginning of term we knew we had a crew strong enough to challenge Caius to their third successive Fairbairns victory. King’s M1 has never won the Fairbairn Cup before, so we were all eager to change this and have our names recorded in KCBC history. The whole crew has been committed to the training that Chris Smith and I have set this term; pushing each other to the limit on the ergs and uniting as a crew on the water. As Fairbairns approached we knew Queens’ would be one of our closest rivals, while the speed and form of Caius remained elusive; as we had not directly raced them over the course of the term.

Race day saw relatively fast stream conditions for the Cam, so I adjusted my racing lines appropriately to maximise speed from the river. We warmed up just as we had practised for the past three weeks, but heading into the unfamiliar waters upstream of the boathouse. As ten o’clock approached and the first crews headed off we de-kitted, passing everything we could to Chris Smith to hold in his duffle bag. Rowing down to the start the crew was silent, a mixture of nerves and excitement – we were all focused on the task in hand; the next 14 minutes of racing that would define our term’s efforts as a crew.

I lined us up ready to start outside Goldie boathouse. The crew came forward to front-stops for our racing start.

Attention. Go.

It was crucial that we got a good start; moving together and up at our top speed – we did. The first two minutes took us around the corners under the Elizabeth Way Bridge and saw us complete our start sequence. As we came past the King’s boathouse we sharpened up our catches and brought the boat speed back up to cruising. We were flying along in a smooth rhythm set up by stern pair, driven faster by the stream and aiming to pass through halfway as the quickest crew – Official results put us first at halfway, ahead of the lightweights by 1.7 seconds.

Chesterton Footbridge marked the second phase of our race plan – from this point we would step on in an attempt to break all the other competition. We lifted out of the corner and surged past the P&E, focusing on the leg drive and connecting with the water. As we raced under the Railway Bridge we knew we had just over two kilometres to go – bridge to bridge, just as we had practised twenty times before. The crew was moving dynamically and fast, focusing on breaking Caius and winning from this point. We were approx. eight minutes into the race and tiredness was beginning to kick in, boat speed dropped slightly and the possibility of losing began to creep into our minds. As we rounded Ditton I knew we had to get back up to speed as we lifted out of it. I prepared the crew for the lift and surge. They responded.

We flew along Plough Reach, thirty strokes of pure power to drive us into the corners and bring us closer to the finish. The boat was perfectly set on the entry to Grassy and stayed that way as we slingshot around it – maintaining boat speed and rhythm. First Post Corner marked the final stage of the race, this was our final chance to win it, if we so happened to be behind. I called a lift over three, getting the crew up onto their toes and allowing those with power left in their legs to drive the boat on. The intensity from everyone was outstanding as we raced along at 35 strokes per minutes, the bows lifting out of the water each stroke and propelling us forward. I may have shouted the famous Gladiator quote, ‘What we do in life echoes in eternity’, over the cox box at this point to help maintain focus – we were going to do it. Nearing the Motorway Bridge I called for a final lift and the response was incredible. Just when I thought the guys could give no more, they took the rate up to 36½ and the speed jumped up another notch. This was it. The final surge for the line; lactate in the legs burning, lungs gasping for air, and faces grimacing.

Wind it down.

As the crew slumped over their oars it was clear that none of us could have done any more to obtain victory in that race. Faces were marred by sweat and pain. Eight weeks of training focused on one race, a chance for King’s to take a step forward on the river and beat the best rowing colleges; to grace a place on the Cam where no King’s crew had gone before – the Head of the River.

Result: 13:47.6 (1st Senior Men’s Eight)

We have won Fairbairns – technically a joint victory with Queens’ M1 who were within one second (slower) of our time. I would personally like to thank every member of the crew and Chris Smith for being extremely committed to the boat club this term and making this victory possible. We have made history guys!


With the two boat rule in action and several yellow flags in the weeks leading up to the race, as well as two last minute subs, M2 weren’t best prepared for the 4.4km Fairbairns course. In the true spirit of King’s we went out to do our best anyway!

After working our way through the chaotic marshalling pattern we lined up ready for the start. Having not quite perfected our standing starts we set off from rolling; winding up over seven and lengthening over three. Despite having a scratch crew we managed to settle onto a good rhythm, with the boat moving well up at a high stroke rate. As we came past King’s boathouse everyone seemed to sit up tall, allowing the boat to fly along centre stream. Legs were going down fast and strong, driving the boat along at a respectable speed to last out the race.

As we rounded Chesterton, with the entire length of the Reach in front of us, tiredness began to take its toll. Lifting out of the corner we lost the strong rhythm we had before, such that the boat felt heavier with each stroke. Everyone was still putting in the effort, but crucially not together. Surging down the Reach we managed to keep our composure, setting up a level platform to attack to corners from. Coming out of First Post Corner we pushed on towards the line; taking the rate up a couple of pips and driving the boat speed up. Emptying the tanks we drove on from the Motorway Bridge with less than twenty strokes left. Crossing the line we were spent. Thanks to all the M2 guys for the work they have put in over the term, let’s keep it up and push on toward Lents.
Result: 16:46.0 (15th Second Men’s Eight)

Will Miller

Fairbairns is arguably the most eagerly anticipated and most dreaded race of the Michaelmas term; it promises a great turn out from all the clubs and a chance to measure up crews against one another yet at the same time it is the longest race of the rowing calendar. Fired by the good performance at Bedford the crew entered into Fairbairns with a positive frame of mind.
The row was solid and we managed to maintain a nice rhythm throughout the piece. The fitness that the crew had been developing throughout the term seemed to have paid off, as the overall feel of the row was solid from start to finish.
Although the end result saw King’s 1 second off their Murray Edwards rivals, our time still beat some of the most respected crews on the river and the overall result was top five among the college boats which was more than satisfying.

Alex Hayes

Crew lists:
M1: [Bow] Andre Thunot, [2] Neil Paul, [3] Craig Lambert, [4] Conor Burgess, [5] Alge Wallis, [6] Paddy Buchanan, [7] Joel Wilson, [Stroke] Lachlan Jardine, [Cox] Will Miller, [Coach] Chris Smith
M2: [Bow] Lee Nissim, [2] Erik Wannerberg, [3] Harry Ragan, [4] Tim Martin, [5] Mike Hoffman, [6] Nick Rabey, [7] Rutger Grisel, [Stroke] Will Miller, [Cox] Colette Bane, [Coach] Chris Braithwaite
W1: [Bow] Naomi Fenwick, [2] Vera Konieczny, [3] Brioni Aston, [4] Alex Hayes, [5] Beth Wratislaw, [6] Liz Dzeng, [7] Matilda Greig, [Stroke] Marijne Mak, [Cox] Nicole Samuel, [Coach] Roger Thorogood

King’s Alumni
A few weeks ago I had strange idea while coaching M2 that it would be fun to do Fairbairns without doing any of the tedious training type bits first. Obviously to do this I would need to enlist the help of 8 other fairly stupid people who thought the same thing. Fortunately through years of association with KCBC, I count many such stupid people amongst my friends, and so the alumni crew was born. The crew itself took a little bit of organising, and then reorganising as people who said they were available suddenly remembered that the 30th was a Friday rather than a Saturday and that Cambridge was a distance away from where they lived and they would have to travel to get here (thus meaning they would have to get up early). Eventually however the crew was fixed as:

[Cox] Andy Clark (1999)
[Stroke] Chris Braithwaite (2000)
[7] Matt Drozdzynski (2009)
[6] Richard Rollins (2007)
[5] Matt Tancock (2005)
[4] Paul Thomas (2005) – obviously Paul is still here, but he is old enough.
[3] Chris Perry (2010) – owing to being old and senile and the fact that I only see people if they row; I erroneously thought Chris had graduated.
[2] Mark Hancock (2003)
[Bow] Elliot Carter (2009)

We arrived at precisely the time we meant to, which ranged from about 9-9:15 depending on traffic or whether Elliot’s borrowed bike worked. Having relaxed M1 with our old school chat and setting them up for their famous win, we busied ourselves with misadjusting our boat so that we had something to blame for a poor performance later on. After boating we had a brief warm up where we realised that we could balance the boat fairly well, and Andy had an opportunity to run through a variety of coxing accents (cockney, overly posh, South African and John Anderson from Gladiators) before settling on his own accent for the race. Marshalling went as well as could be expected, it would have gone better had we been left to our own wise devices, but sadly it seemed the organisers wanted to demonstrate that we paid the entry fee for something and tried to interject a couple of times.

Eventually it came time to reduce our layers and start the race. The start went well, hitting the high 30s after only a couple of strokes, and we settled down well, allowing us to concentrate on the first of our race plan goals; looking good on the photos. This seemed to go fairly well and we kept up a decent pace to King’s boathouse, where the watching crowd cheered us past with a mixture of sympathy and surprise (alumni rowing is like a talking dog, it is not how well it is done, but more that it is done at all….). Safely out of the sight of people watching we turned our attention to a solid rhythm of 30.5 spm and the second of our race goals, getting to Chesterton without screwing up anyone else’s race by being too slow. Having achieved this we moved onto the tactical master plan that we had been working on all morning. Basically it had occurred to us that going fast on the way down stream was all well and good, but as we would still be waiting for the last boat to finish, it wouldn’t help us get to the pub any earlier. Hence we decided the best course of action would be to save ourselves a little for the row home. This plan also had the benefit of protecting the more aged of us from arthritic flare ups and so on.

Up until the end of the reach the plan was working very well. Unfortunately at this point, Boars Head (Queen’s Alumni) who had started behind us began to gain alarmingly fast. This was probably due to the rather unsporting tactic of having done some training, so we weren’t about to let them come by and spoil our theory that training wasn’t actually necessary. From Ditton to First Post, this played out like the end of an unsuccessful bumps race, and on First Post we were forced to move out wide in a cunning feint to allow Boar’s Head to try and overtake. Then we showed them the true meaning of racing. Anyone can go fast if they have done some training and aren’t under pressure, it’s when the chips are down that it really counts, and looking at some of the waistlines in our crew we knew a thing or two about the chips being down. Pushing hard out of the corner, the race became more like a side by side regatta, with a sudden spurt taking us back out to a length. Boars Head tried valiantly, using all of their fitness and training, to get back but only managed to cut our lead (won by sheer bloody mindedness) to half a length by the line. Having finished to the cheers of M1, who were presumably hiding their horror that in 5 years they will be like us, we gave three cheers to Boar’s Head and received 3 in return as though in fact only the last 500m of the race had actually mattered and they hadn’t handed us a 35 second spanking.

After this we did a couple of high rate burst on the way home using the energy conserved from the race, and thankfully for all arrived at the pub in good time. In my case I went via watching M2, who whilst failing to match our speed, did show admirable alumnus potential by breaking a seat a couple of times to give themselves a good excuse. All in all a good time was had by all, and judging by the comments I have had back since, it may even become a yearly fixture.

Result: 16:05.0 (5th Alumni Eight)

Chris Braithwaite