HTBS’s Tim Koch reports from Oxford’s and Cambridge’s light paddle earlier today:
Friday, 6 April saw the final preparations for the 158th Oxford – Cambridge Boat Race. The entire course was strewn with BBC outside broadcast engineers laying cables over everything that did not move. On the water, Oxford went out at 7.30 and Cambridge at 12.30 for a final gentle paddle, I suspect more for the benefit of the press photographers than for themselves.
Oxford, the defending champions, are the favourites and certainly Coach Sean Bowden’s record of 2 out of 3 wins when he was with Cambridge and 8 out of 13 wins since he has been with Oxford does give the Dark Blue camp an air of confidence.
Cambridge, losers last year and with only three wins in the last ten races, are the underdogs but some ‘old hands’ in the press launch were very impressed with their power on the short pieces that they saw. Coach Steve Trapmore lost in his first year in charge in 2011, but it would be very foolish to write him or his crew off.
Back on land, I visited my old crew mate, CUBC Boatman Chris Smith at King’s College School Boathouse, the Cambridge base at Putney. The Tabs are again using a Canadian made Hudson boat. One of the people from the Hudson company told me that sales have increased considerably since the endorsement by Cambridge. The boat is named after 2008 Light Blue reserve rower Bartosz Szczyrba, who died of lymphoma last July at the age of twenty-nine.
There are, it may surprise you to know, seven ‘Oxford – Cambridge Boat Races’. On 25 March at Henley, the Heavyweight Women’s Race and Lightweight Men’s Race were won by Cambridge while Oxford’s Lightweight Women and Heavyweight Reserve Women were victorious in their events. The ‘main event’ on 7 April will see the heavyweight men and the reserve heavyweight men race but on Friday 6 the most informal of these challenges took place – the Veterans’ (Masters’) Race. Martin Gough followed it on the Putney to Hammersmith course:
Cambridge went off at a slightly higher rate, gradually opening up a length’s lead by Barn Elms. At that point, cox Rebecca Dowbiggin moved across Oxford’s line, forcing them to row in the light-blue puddles and gaining another length. There were warnings but Cambridge were soon well in front of a clearly-less-fit Oxford and cruised away to win by three lengths in 7’47.
(Photographs & copyright: Tim Koch)