Caius narrowly beat Lady Margaret to claim the NM1 shield in the event’s first round of racesJames Lee/

Over the course of two days, the Fairbairn Cup 2021 saw both novice and senior college crews race against each other in a time-trial format on the River Cam, with prizes awarded to the fastest boats in a number of categories. Novice races were held on Thursday (02/12), while senior races took place on Friday (03/12).

Fairbairn returned this year following cancellation in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The event consisted of 54 novice eight’s crews (four of which were time only, meaning that they had not qualified for the college novice categories) split into three divisions - NM1, NW1, and N2s, with the latter split into two categories of NM2 and NW2 - while senior races involved six eight’s categories (M1, M2, Invitational M1, W1, W2, and Invitational W1) and four four’s categories (M1, Invitational M1, W1, and Invitational W1).

Including time only and invitational crews, a total of 70 men’s eight and 50 women’s eight boats competed, succeeded by 35 four’s boats to finish off the final day of racing. The races were open to all Cambridge and Oxford colleges, while non-college crews (as well as college crews ineligible for college divisions, such as alumni crews) were also permitted to race in the Invitational divisions.

Three race courses were put in place this year, each covering a different distance. All began at Jesus College Boat House Flagpole, but the Senior VIIIs finished at The Little Bridge (4300m), the Novice VIIIs at The Railings (2700m), and the Senior IVs at The Red Grind Post (3400m).

Newnham claimed victory in the SW1 category, beating Caius by 25 secondsJames Lee/

Kicking things off on an overcast Thursday morning, Caius’ men stormed to a final time of 10:13.0 in the NM1 category, with the first crew of the day eventually ending as the fastest of the day. Lady Margaret posted a close second at 10:16.6, but both crews finished comfortably ahead of third-placed Emmanuel, who crossed the line with a time of 10:33.3. Caius’ victory marks their fourth consecutive win in the event, including a tied result back in 2018 with Lady Margaret.

The NW1 division was also won by Caius, recording an impressive 11:51.0, which was 26.7 seconds faster than second-placed First and Third (Trinity Boat Club).

The first day of racing concluded with the novice crews in Division 2 taking to the water. Once again, Caius emerged victorious, this time in the NW2 category where they smashed runners-up Queens’ by 34.1s. Meanwhile, Lady Margaret won NM2, finishing ahead of Emmanuel by four seconds with a time of 11:18.1.

Turning to the senior competition the next day, Jesus won the opening SM1 event, beating Oriel (Oxford) by a comfortable 10.7s. Newnham took the SW1 category with a time of 16:33.5, with Caius finishing second.

Further flexing their dominance from the novice outings, Caius were victorious in both the SM2 and SW2 categories, rounding off a hugely successful competition for the college.


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Out of the invitational eight’s crews, City of Cambridge and Cantabrigian won the men’s and women’s field respectively.

In the four’s races, Magdalene SM1 crossed The Red Grind Post in 11:33.3s, beating the Jesus boat that started straight after them by 13.8s. Pembroke denied Caius of yet another victory in the SW1 category, recording 13:40.9 against Caius’ 13:43.0.

Bantagroatclub HPC won the Invitational SM1 over City of Cambridge, putting a halt to the latter’s day of podium success, while The Boat That Rocked (Downing alumni) triumphed over Jesus Alumni to take the Invitational SW1 prize.

In what was an incredible display of British rowing, Caius continued their dominant form both in the annual tournament and from the Eights Regatta back in late June, where they claimed victory in the SW1, SW2, NM1 and NW1 divisions.

All of the results from the Fairbairn Cup 2021 can be found here.