Rowing Update: Who Is Hot For Fairbairns?

JONATHAN FUHRMANN brings the latest news from the river, and bravely predicts which colleges look good for the Fairbairn Cup.

college rowing fairbairn cup fairbairns fat Jesus rowing LMBC queens' rowing Rowing

As the days become shorter and the mornings colder, the Cambridge rowing community once again enters that period of largely unfounded prediction-making for Michaelmas’ main race – the Fairbairn Cup, run by Jesus at the very end of term.

In the run-up, a busier than ever river jam-packed with keen novices is providing difficult conditions to train in – at least there are no aggressive swans at this time of year to stir things up.

Much like last year, the Queens’ men’s squad boasts a large number of returning Mays first boat colours, making them likely contenders to retain their title.

Last year’s Queens’ M1 on their way to an historic victory.

Indeed, Queens’ did win the Autumn Head race in mid-October, leaving runners-up FaT trailing by a full 28 seconds. They were followed by Jesus, LMBC, Christ’s – who plummeted 5 places in last year’s Lent Bumps – and finally Emma, who were even beaten by several college fours that had entered.

Queens’ are further strengthened by the fact that many other colleges who performed well in Mays, such as Pembroke, Downing and FaT, all have several top oarsmen trialling for the University Boat Clubs.

On the women’s side, Downing are looking set to post a strong set of results, winning the Autumn Head eights division 10 seconds ahead of Emma. LMBC won the fours category comfortably, with only Queens’ finishing within half a minute of them.

The University Women’s Boat Club (CUWBC) seem to have put a botched 2010 campaign behind them.

Cambridge University Women

With a new coaching team and system, they performed respectably – with the exception of their quad (quadruple scull), which has mystified the rowing community as to the very reason of its existence. Indeed, its main purpose so far seems to have been to crash into absolutely every conceivable obstacle – and lacking that, just any readily available piece of riverbank.

With just over four weeks to go until Fairbairns, the Uni Fours are the next major opportunity for colleges to impress. While racing is still ongoing, Clare Hall – complete outsiders in any rowing context to say the very least, with their top boats floundering in the 4th division in both Lent and May Bumps – have clinched the title in the second coxed fours division, beating Jesus M2 by just 1.7 seconds in an extremely close final.

Jesus were also beaten in the top coxless fours – victors Clare will now face LMBC or FaT in the final of this event.

The women’s events are undecided at the time of writing, with the top final between LMBC and either Emma scheduled for later this week. LMBC are considered likely to emerge victorious, and it looks like they might stand a decent chance of rising again in the Bumps charts later this year.

Fairbairns, then, looks to be an interesting affair this year – while the usual top dogs FaT, Caius and Downing are likely to finish near the top again, the question remains whether Queens’, who were dismissed by many as a one-hit wonder last year, will manage to defend their title as fastest Mich term college eight.

Predictions for the novice category are basically gueswork – unless they are based on swap potential, in which case the author is reliably informed that Queens’ and Girton novice women are the ones to watch out for.