Crew: Beth Kemp (cox), Billie Meadowcroft (stroke), Léa GP (7, captain), Ulrika Andersson (6), Kathryn van der Byl (5), Pippa Sayers (4), Katy Relph (3), Charlotte Hallam (2), Kate Attfield (Bow), Lisa Silk (coach)
Having logged the water miles and clocked the watts on the ergs, Fairbairns was anticipated by the Queens’ Michaelmas W1 crew. They had been training hard for many weeks and were a committed, determined crew. The girls were prepared with a solid race plan in mind that split up the long race into four distinct sections. This race was their opportunity to showcase the tremendous amount of progress they have made throughout the term.
The weather conditions were idyllic, as it was unseasonably warm, sunny and the wind was in our favour. The girls were nervous as they boated and marshalled past the boathouses. ‘Queens’ whenever you are ready…’. We came to front stops. Two strokes and into a rolling start. We started the race with a long and steady pace, holding back slightly, aware of the 4.3km that lay ahead. We weaved in and out of the corners in town and under the Green Dragon Bridge. Beth cornered nice and tight around Chesterton and delivered the ‘gear change’ call. This marked the end of the first section.
Up two on the rate, more pressure in the water. A real shift was felt in the boat. A long stretch of water lay ahead and the crew was determined to make the most of it. Best of all, Newnham W1 ahead of us were only 5 boat-lengths away. With a new goal in sight, we placed our blades into the water and drew them into our chests with intent. Along the Long Reach, we chipped away at the distance that separated us from the crew in front making sure to stay strong with our posture and efficient with our rowing. Beth went through the pairs, asking for strong catches from the bows, a real shunting feeling from the middle four and a sustained rhythm from the stern. On all fronts, the crew executed whatever was called and the boat was flying through the water.
Ditton marked the end of the second section. By this point in the race, we weren’t thinking anymore, we were just pushing. We had gotten to two boat-lengths between us and Newnham, and had to take the corners slightly off the racing line to avoid a collision. Nonetheless, the girls mastered the corners, applying the right amount of lateral pressure into their riggers to stay on top of their platform. Rowing in the wake of the crew ahead of us, we feathered high and kept executing our racing plan. 20 bigs strokes got us through the gut.
Once the rudder was off, we knew that we had entered the last section of our racing plan. The end sequence. This is a section that we have been working on all term. Going up on the rate and power at the end of the race without losing the balance or technique has always been a challenge for us. We went up two. The power matched the increase in speed. Our blades were going in and out cleanly, only one boat-length away from the crew ahead of us. We came under the motorway bridge and Beth called for us to ‘sit up and go’. We shortened our strokes, and wound through the finish line, just half a boat-length off of Newnham.
We had finished in 17:11, 35 seconds off of the winning college crew and placing us 6th within the colleges. A result to be very proud of. A smashing end of a nearly perfect term of rowing, which has left the whole crew very excited about Lent.