Anouschka Fenley

Club: CUBC

Height: 185cm

School: Headington School Oxford

International rowing record: Competed for the junior GB team in GB vs France matches. Rowed at University of Washington (Seattle) rowing program from 2013-2017, won PAC 12 conference championships and part of team that won a historic national team sweep at the NCAA championships in 2017.

Year you first started rowing: 2006

How have you coped this year?

My teammates have helped me cope with the changing situations. We have been motivating, supporting and raising each other’s spirits up each day. I find it helps to focus on positives, and to be excited by our progress, particularly as we have been training separately for a lot of the season. It is exciting to be on a team that embraces adversity.

Could you build a strong team culture while training virtually?

Despite the distance between us all, we continue to regularly train together via Zoom, and to cheer on each other’s progress. It is amazing to see the commitment and enthusiasm of my teammates. We also had fun social events to keep us connected virtually. In many ways we have become even closer as a team through overcoming the challenges we have faced. We are really appreciating these last few weeks we have on the water together before the race.

Were the isolated ergs better or worse than expected?

Better than I expected. At the beginning it did seem disheartening to envisage training for months without being able to go on the water and to not be able to train alongside teammates. But it quickly became apparent that we could still really enjoy training sessions together via Zoom. We embraced the challenge of training individually and adjusted to a new pattern of training on land. I was really motivated by seeing my progress on the ergs and excited to prepare in the best way possible on land for our return to the water.

How do you cope with race day nerves?

I have a pre-race ritual where I like to listen to music to help me stay focused and to visualise the race as I do a long warm up. It also helps me to chat with my teammates.

The biggest challenge?

There have been many challenges and it is difficult to choose only one. The uncertainty surrounding returning to the water has been hard because as rowers we are used to patterns and being organised. But we adjusted well to the training plan on land and the certainty around the Boat Race date has helped. It has also been really challenging not being able to go on the water. Whilst we have been effectively training individually, ultimately, we love being on the water and working together as a team to make boats go fast.

The toughest session?

It depends on how training has been going; some days are tougher than others depending on where we are in the cycle of training sessions.

The best day, so far?

It is difficult to choose a single day. There are so many enjoyable and memorable moments, from preparing and racing at Trial VIIIs to laughing with my teammates when we did a training session in whacky kit over Zoom. I enjoy the whole process, and I really value being able to continue to share and enjoy this unique and amazing experience with my teammates.

Only the Blue Boat races on the 4th April 2021: What’s it like splitting the squad?

It is hard to cut down numbers and it is sad that the whole team couldn’t return to the water. But we remain close as a team and continue to train together for land sessions and meet virtually for support. We take each day as it comes and embrace every opportunity we can.

How did it feel getting back on the water?

Brilliant. We love being on the water and being able to train together again. There is so much positive energy and excitement amongst everyone on the team, and teammates that aren’t yet able to go back on the water have been really encouraging and they motivate us even more.

Why do you want to beat Oxford?

For me, it is not just about beating Oxford, it is about the Cambridge crew and what we can do together. Daniel James Brown’s book The Boys in the Boat chronicles the tale of nine University of Washington students and their journey to the 1936 Berlin Olympics. It is difficult to describe the impact of rowing and being a part of a crew, as Brown writes the ‘boat’ is “something more than just the shell or its crew…it encompassed but transcended both – it was something mysterious and almost beyond definition. It was a shared experience –a singular thing that had unfolded in a golden sliver of time”. I want us to race the best we can, to see how fast we can go and to enjoy that golden sliver of time.