Oxford v Cambridge On The Tideway: Now We Are Four

Pic 1
At the finish of the 2014 (Men’s) Boat Race.

Tim Koch writes:

Perhaps I can add a little more explanation to the recent HTBS post, ‘2015 Henley Races’. From 1829 until 1965 there was only one ‘Oxford – Cambridge Boat Race’. In this period there was no maximum weight limit for the oarsmen, the crews were male and, from 1845, the course was from Putney to Mortlake (bar a few odd occasions). Since 1965 the main race has been preceded by a race between the men’s reserve crews over the same ‘Championship Course’. The Oxford reserves have the now unfortunate name of Isis (as the Thames at Oxford is called) and their Cambridge counterparts are called Goldie (after John Goldie, a former CUBC President and oarsman). In 1975 what was to become the ‘Henley Boat Races’ started at rowing’s spiritual home when an Oxford – Cambridge men’s lightweight race was held. In 1977, the Women’s Boat Race (which had previously been held very intermittently) and the Women’s Reserve Race (Osiris for Oxford and Blondie for Cambridge) were added to the programme. The Women’s Lightweights arrived at Henley in 1984 and in 2010 races between Head Crews from the Oxford Torpids and Cambridge Lent bumping races were established. In 1995, a Veterans (Masters) Boat Race for male Old Blues was begun on the Tideway, running on a shortened course, Putney to Hammersmith. In time, no doubt, there will be a female equivalent.

Pic 2
Osiris celebrate their victory in the 2014 Women’s Reserve Race at the Henley Boat Races.

As HTBS has reported many times, since 2011 Newton Investment Management under their CEO, Helena Morissey, have sponsored the women’s boat clubs at Oxford and Cambridge to enable them, for the first time, to invest in coaching, infrastructure and equipment equal to that of the men. In February 2012, it was officially announced that from 2015 the Women’s Boat Race would be held on the same day as the two men’s races and over the full Thames Tideway course. While this was welcomed by all concerned, it did give rise to a conundrum. The final choice between who would be in the Blue Boat racing the 6,780 metres from Putney to Mortlake and who would row with the reserve crew over 2,000 metres at Henley would not usually be made until relatively close to both events, held a week apart. The two distances really require different types of training and, as it would not be known who exactly would be in which crew until close to the race, it would be difficult to set an ideal training programme.

Pic 3
Blondie retuning from their defeat by Osiris at the 2014 Henley Races. This year they plan to give ‘four’ a blade.

Fortunately, the problem has recently been resolved. To my surprise at least, the Boat Race Company put out this press release last week:

The Boat Race Company limited have confirmed that the Osiris – Blondie Race (The Newton Women’s Reserve Boat Race) will now take place on the Championship Course in London on Friday 10 April at 4.05 p.m.

With the support of Newton Investment Management since 2011, Oxford University Women’s Boat Club and the Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club have been able to invest in coaching and equipment to prepare them for the 2015 season. The move of Osiris – Blondie Race to join The Newton Women’s Boat Race on the Tideway will allow both Women’s Clubs to train the full squads for a race across the same distance….

The BNY Mellon Boat Races schedule:

Friday 10 April
4.05 p.m. Osiris – Blondie Race
Saturday 11 April
4.50 p.m. The Newton Women’s Boat Race
5.20 p.m. Isis Goldie Race
5.50 p.m. The BNY Mellon Boat Race

It was presumably thought too difficult to run all four races on one day on one tide (on 11 April, low water at Putney is at 2 p.m., high water at 7.30 p.m.). Perhaps there were objections to closing the river for too long, perhaps the TV people had an input? While I welcome this development, I feel that, in the interests of true equality, if one reserve race has to be on a Friday, then both should be on a Friday. Before I knew that an extra day’s racing was an option, my view was that the men’s reserve race should be moved to Henley leaving the ‘Big Day’ to the two ‘best of the best’ races.

It was in this context that HTBS reported the Henley Boat Races announcement that, to spite the loss of another of their races, they would be continuing ‘to look forward to many more years of exciting racing’ and that they would be ‘taking this opportunity to create a new profile for the event, centred on the Oxbridge lightweights’.

As the Boat Race website announced, though training has been going on for six weeks, 23 October saw the official opening of the 2015 Boat Race Season when the formal challenges were made by the Presidents of last year’s losing crews. Pictures of the event are here. On the men’s side, Constantine Louloudis is President of OUBC and Austrian Alexander Leichter is his opposite number at CUBC. For the women, Anastasia Chitty is in charge of the Dark Blues and Caroline Reid takes control of the Tabs.

Pic 4
I am sure that they all will.

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