Hear The Boat Sing, HTBS, moves in some fairly distinguished circles these days as we have been given press accreditation for the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race. On Wednesday 23rd March I went to Thames Rowing Club in Putney, almost opposite the race start, where the ‘Media Centre’ is situated. I felt a little fraudulent mixing with the rowing correspondents of the quality British newspapers but I was more relaxed after a good lunch provided by the PR company.
The routine in the week leading up to the race is that the crews go out twice a day for a fairly gentle paddle, some sharpening exercises and some starts. By this stage all the hard work is done and nothing too exhausting is undertaken. It is also a chance for guest ‘finishing coaches’ to make final suggestions. All this is done under the watchful eye of the press who follow one of the day’s outings in a launch.
Alas, there was no room in the press launch for me but the Oxford launch let me sit in, which was splendid but meant that I only saw the Dark Blues in action. Oxford’s most successful coach, Dan Topolski (on the right) was on board (of the fifteen Boat Races in which he was coach, Oxford won twelve including a run of ten victories between 1976 and 1985). I do not know what Topolski told coach Sean Bowden in the boathouse afterwards but I thought that several of the crew looked a little stiff and tense and that the timing was not always what would be expected of The Blue Boat.
At the weigh-in on 7th March, Rachel Quarrell, rowing correspondent of The Daily Telegraph, said that the week before the race may produce a more definite idea of the result on Saturday. I asked her if this was the case: “We saw Cambridge out against Goldie (Cambridge reserves) yesterday (Tuesday)….. they were a lot faster….. Oxford has not done an equal piece that we know of… The reserves look good…. a bit rough on the starts. The Blue Boats have only just started doing starts and pieces. Cambridge looked powerful yesterday but Oxford looked better when paddling. So, at the moment, its any-ones guess who will win.”
So, as John Snagge said, “…it’s either Oxford or Cambridge”.
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