Anyone’s Game On The River
ROWING: The river is wide open this term, as novices replace those trialling, says JONATHAN FUHRMANN.
It is that time of the year again when lycra-clad armies, along with dreamy-eyed freshers – this time sporting “Leavers ’11” hoodies, making some of us feel really rather old – descend upon the river Cam after the long summer break.
Former top dogs First and Third Trinity (FaT) will be licking their wounds and looking to re-establish themselves near the top end of College rowing after plummeting a spectacular 25 spots overall in the May Bumps while the new double headship crews from Caius (men) and Downing (women) will be trying to carry the momentum from last year’s successes into the new academic year.
Apart from the University Fours and the Autumn Head race, there will be very little in terms of actual results to go by before term culminates in the Fairbairn Cup, a ~4km head race run by Jesus College in early December. They will certainly be hoping for a milder winter this year after last years race had to be cancelled due to the river freezing over. The replacement race in mid-January proved rather less popular and as the event was also overshadowed by some dodgy timing and results last year, well – one would hope that things can only go better this year…
Michaelmas term rowing is a slightly different beast from Lent and Easter terms because most College clubs will have lost at least part of their top crew – either to the real world via graduation or to University-level squads. Indeed, the Caius men are likely to compete with a significantly weakened lineup as several members of their Mays crew are currently trialling for the light- and heavyweight Boat Races. It is almost impossible to make any specific predictions before term has even begun, but judging by the current distribution of triallists, the field is wide open this term for fresh crews to step up and make a name for themselves.
On the women’s side, Downing had a reputation of being effectively invincible for most of last year – it will be interesting to see whether they will manage to maintain their dominance for another year. Christ’s women have started their term’s training early and may be aiming for more exciting results this term than their four rowovers in Mays. Further down the bumps charts, Newnham, who have had several strong crews on the river for the last year or so and are the defending champions of the Fairbairn Cup, are likely to do well given the depth of their squad. Rumours suggest, on the other hand, that Magdalene may be struggling with a shortage of experienced returners – if so, they may have to once again enter only a four instead of an eight.
Novices are among the most prevalent features of Mich. term rowing, be it due to their budding rowing prowess, their ubiquitous presence on the (wrong side of the) river on busy weekday mornings or, last but not least, their swap potential. Queens’ Ergs, the second biggest indoor rowing competition in the country and – until last year – exclusively for novices, makes for an exciting first highlight in novice rowing (although why they insist on holding the final session at 11pm continues to baffle me). Clare Novices Regatta and Emma Sprints, both in late November, will round off a busy term of novice rowing before Fairbairns and the all-important Boat Club Dinners.
Finally, congratulations must go out to the Cambridge University graduates who have represented GB at the World Championships in Bled (Slovenia): Annie Vernon (Downing) won the B final in the women’s quad scull, Anna Watkins (Newnham) won gold in the women’s double scull, Tom Ransley (Hughes Hall) won silver in the men’s eight and Tom James (Tit Hall) won gold in the men’s coxless four. Ro Bradbury (Jesus) went along as a spare.