The annual Fairbairn Cup, run by Cambridge’s Jesus College Boat Club, is the racing highlight of the autumn term for the college boat clubs.
The event attracts not just Cambridge colleges, but CULRC and Oxford colleges, with ‘invitational’ prizes available for Cambridge town clubs and alumni crews who wish to compete. Run over 2 days, novice eights compete on the Thursday, and senior crews race on the Friday over 3,400m in coxed fours and 4,300m in eights. The course for the eights is the longest possible on the Cam by a considerable distance, making it a good first opportunity to race a long head race as preparations for the Women’s Eights Head and Eights Head begin for Cantabs’ senior squads.
The downside, of course, is that the races take place in the middle of the Friday work day, so the Cantabs crews had to be drawn from available athletes who were students, have flexible working hours, or have enough annual, leave left to take (and were prepared to take it to do an on-Cam race!).
The Senior Women’s Squad managed to cobble together an 8+ who squeezed in one outing as a crew before the race. The crew contained 4 athletes who have won Tideway head pennants this season – Millie Perrin and Ellie Darlington, who were winners of W.IM1.2- at Pairs Head, and Gill Cooper and cox Isabel Nimmo, who won W.MasC.4+ at Vet Fours Head – as well as Clare Hall, Eve Caroe, Bailee Stratton, Hannah Stewart and Anita Holender. The crew had a good race, despite the college crew which started behind them leaving a significant gap and forcing Cantabs to race in a vacuum until the closing stages of the race when they nearly got overlap on a Selwyn College men’s alumni 8+ who they had given over a minute’s head start to! Cantabs finished as the fastest women’s crew by far, 49 seconds faster than the 2nd fastest, and beating 3 men’s college top boats in the process.
The Senior Men’s Squad also managed to get together an 8+, half of which doubled up to race a 4+ later on. The 8+ helped Cantabs enjoy a clean sweep of fastest invitational eights, as James King, Finn Grimwood, Jimmy Adams, Charlie Cullen, Hadi Boukhatmi, Guy Fiddian, Tom Rose, Sean Collins and cox Sara Russo finished a solid 6th overall, behind the Cambridge University lightweights who they had match raced the weekend before. This made them the fastest men’s invitational 8+. A couple of hours later, Jimmy, Finn, Hadi and Guy jumped in a boat with Sara to race the four. Considering they’d raced the longer course shortly before, and never rowed together in that crew before, they did well to finish 3rd fastest men’s 4+, 2nd fastest invitational crew.