Fulfilling My Potential

Twenty-year-old Fionnuala Ratcliffe is at Clare College and in her final year of a  natural sciences degree, specialising in zoology. A member of the Blondie crew last year, this season she is back for more…

‘My introduction to rowing was slow and painless. I noviced in my first term at Cambridge, and after a year of college rowing, with varying success, I was encouraged to trial for the University. Thinking at the time that it couldn’t hurt, I rocked up in September for the start of Trialling, with a capital T. Having already been warned of the accompanying tiredness and social life decline, my masterplan was to trial for one year before promptly returning to a normal student lifestyle and the remains of my degree.


Crews were set in February and, to my relief and delight, I found myself in the bow seat of Blondie, the second heavyweight boat. The main focus of the squad is the Henley Boat Races; a 2k race on that famous stretch of river against our Oxford counterparts. A good result at the Women’s Eights Head of the River Race  meant we felt hopeful that we could buck the seven-year trend of Osiris (the second Oxford boat) wins. Race Day arrived with inevitably shocking weather, and when we did finally race, an unfortunate boat-stopping crab in our boat after 500m meant that Oxford went several lengths up and the race was essentially over. Besides the obvious disappointment of losing a race we had worked so hard to win, the predominant feeling was of frustration that we hadn’t been able to race as we knew we could. Nevertheless, we still enjoyed the after-party with a Blue Boat who had indeed rowed the race of their lives, in the end narrowly losing by half a length, and an elated, victorious Lightweight crew.

By then I realised that one year of trialling wouldn’t suffice. The terrific time I had with my crew coupled with the desire for a Boat Race win had tricked my mind into forgetting anything bad that trialling involved. It has also become clear, after a further summer’s rowing at Henley Women’s Regatta and the National Championships, that I have plenty of room for improvement in both technique and fitness, and I am keen to fulfil my potential, whatever that may be.

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