The 2012 Pre Christmas Trial VIIIs

Oxford approaching Hammersmith Bridge. Spirfire on the left and Hurricane on the right.

HTBS’s Tim Koch reports from London,

In my piece for HTBS on 28 November I gave an historical perspective to the Boat Race Trials. I suggested that, with modern scientific selection methods, they are not as important as they perhaps were in choosing the final crew. However, I omitted to say that, as far as selecting the cox goes, these inter-club races can still be vital deciders. There is simply no test that is a substitute for steering the simple yet difficult ‘S shaped course other than doing it in a side by side race – as the coxes found in the pre Christmas trials held in good conditions over the full Boat Race Course on 13 December.

Two Boat Race legends, Umpire Boris Rankov (a six times Boat Race winner) and Dan Topolski (who coached Oxford to twelve victories). Sir Matthew Pinsent will umpire the main race for the first time on 31 March.

The Trials are not Oxford v Cambridge races. CUBC and OUBC each race their final 16 oarsmen and two coxes against each other, not against the other place’. This year the Dark Blues raced first in boats named Spitfire and Hurricane for the occasion. Just over an hour later, the Light Blues put out Bangers and Mash. Former BBC sports reporter Martin Gough got one of the much sought after seats in the press launch and later gave me his impressions of the races.

The Oxford Race
Hurricane (Surrey Station)
Bow: James Stephenson (GB)
2: Oliver Bristowe (GB)
3: Joseph Dawson (GB)
4: Benjamin French (USA)
5: Karl Hudspith
6: Constantine Louloudis (GB)
7: Dr. Alex Woods (GB)
Stroke: William Zeng
Cox: Katie Apfelbaum (USA)

Spitfire (Middlesex Station)

Bow: James Mountain
2: Maurus Wuethrich 
3: Nicholas Hazell
4: Iain Mandale
5: Tom Watson
6: Samuel O’Connor
7: Alexander Davidson
Stroke: Malcolm Howard
Cox: Laurence Harvey (GB)

Oxford’s Spitfire goes afloat.

Martin Gough: (In the Oxford Race) it was fairly marginal off the start, both went off quite high… If anything, Spitfire took advantage of the Fulham Bend and were half a length up by Barn Elms. Their cox, Laurence Harvey, was warned quite severely by umpire Boris Rankov early on. Spitfire were 3/4 of a length up at the Mile but as the bend came back in Hurricane’s favour they put their move in. They looked longer and looked as if they had a better rhythm throughout, Hudspith
and Louloudis in the middle playing a really important part. As they came around the Hammersmith Bend, Hurricane were perhaps half a length up. Just before Chiswick Eyot, very close to where the race was stopped last year, there was a clash of blades. Alex Wood in the seven seat lost his blade and lost it again as he tried to regain it. In the time it took Hurricane to get going again, Spitfire were a length up. Even then, even with Spitfire about to have the bend in their favour, I wondered whether Hurricane might come back. They looked looser, they looked like they were getting more length per stroke. (Tim Koch: Some have suggested that, if the Trial were the real thing, cox Harvey’s crew would have been disqualified, even though he otherwise took a better course than Apfelbaum). Both crews put pushes in and Hurricane got back to perhaps 1/4 of a length down. They both put in a great sprint finish, Hurricane taking it up to over 38 strokes per minute and Spitfire to 40, an absolute nail biter, a really good race.

Time: 17 minutes 45 seconds, Spitfire won by 1/4 length.

Cambridge going to the start. Mash is nearest Putney Bridge and Bangers is in the foreground.

The Cambridge Race
Bangers (Surrey Station)
Bow: Chris Snowden
2: Mike Thorp (GB)
3: Josh Hooper 
4: Alexander Leichter 
5: Ty Otto (USA)
6: Stephen Dudek 
7: Milan Bruncvik
Stroke: Niles Garratt
Cox: Henry Fieldman 


(Middlesex Station)
Bow: Rowan Lawson (GB)
2: Alex Ross (NZ)
3: Jack Lindeman (USA)
4: Helge Gruetjen (Germany)
5: George Nash (GB)
6: Grant Wilson (USA)
7: Alexander Scharp (Australia)
Stroke: Alexander Fleming (Australia)
Cox: Sam Ojserkis 

Cambridge going away from Hammersmith Bridge. Bangers lead Mash. Both have Four and Five on bowside (starboard) with tandem rigs.

Martin said this of the less exciting Cambridge Race: Mash took an early lead and were half a length up at the Mile Post. Bangers… took a while to hit their stride but started to claw back… and were level by Harrods. It was a decent move. To spite some minor clashing and some errant steering they came through to gain the lead by Hammersmith, a length by St Paul’s, they just moved on from there. There was some interesting steering after this, Henry Fieldman, the Bangers cox, went really tight at the Bandstand. The cox who is missing that the moment is Ed Bossom (who steered Cambridge last year and who is still around)… It could end up that he gets the Cambridge seat after all this… Fieldman was the better of the two coxes on display but it may prove that there are better ones available…

Time: 17 minutes 46 seconds, Mash won by four lengths.

On their return, Cambridge found the Putney Embankment flooded by a spring tide.

Read what The Daily Telegraph writes about the Trial Eights here.

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