Tim Koch writes:
The build-up to Boat Race Day 2015 has begun in earnest, the anticipatory mood assisted by bright and warm conditions. Monday, 6 April to Friday, 10 April is ‘Tideway Week’ for the 2015 Oxford – Cambridge Boat Race crews, a period when they spend the last few days before the big event on the 4 1/4 miles of river that will, for many, define their university years. This year there are twice as many blue clad students going up, down, around and, in the case of the Oxford women, under the world’s most famous rowing course. This is because, for the first time, both the heavyweight Oxford and Cambridge women’s first and reserve boats will race over the same Putney to Mortlake course as their male counterparts (and, in the case of the top boats, on the same day). Previously the heavyweight women raced each other over 2000 metres on the Henley Reach, usually a week before the considerably older and more famous event on the Thames Tideway. This change is more than one of distance and venue though. It is also one of financial parity with the men, meaning that Oxbridge women’s rowing can now enjoy the benefits of professionalism thirty years after the men first began the move away from the age of the Victorian gentleman-amateur.
Proper funding for the women can only benefit both the race and the sport itself. One of the problems of the Boat Race is that, while it is the most high profile rowing event in Britain (and probably the world outside of an Olympic year), its perceived ‘exclusivity’ adds to the ‘image problem’ of both Universities and the sport of rowing. This is perhaps inevitable as the race is a strange, tradition bound and private match between two institutions with (naturally) very restrictive entry requirements. However, at least by including representatives of the half of humankind that it previously excluded, Boat Race Day may be viewed as at least a little more inclusive than it was previously.
The journey to the Tideway is a long and difficult one, beginning on the Cam and the Isis, and progressing to Ely and Wallingford via the gym and the ergo room. For those that do well in these places, their first visit to the Thames Tideway comes long before April’s Tideway Week.
December: Trail Eights
To quote my Trials report of 11 December 2014:
These were not contests of Light Blue v Dark Blue, they were intra-university races, Oxford racing Oxford and Cambridge racing Cambridge, where the last sixteen rowers and last two coxswains from each university battle it out in theoretically matched boats, all eighteen hoping to impress the coach who has to make the final selection. This is the only time that the candidates for the Blue Boats will race the full course and the Trials are an important learning experience for athletes and coxes and an intense selection test, especially as it gives some indication of how individuals may cope with race day pressure.
Post Christmas Fixtures
To quote the excellent Boat Race website: http://theboatraces.org
In the final preparations for The BNY Mellon Boat Races, each of the four clubs will pit themselves against some of the best domestic and international competition. This will give racing experience to the Blue Boat and Reserve Crew line-ups, aid the coaches in finalising selection difficulties and fuel anticipation of this year’s Races on April 11th.
Each of these fixtures are linked to their race reports on theboatraces.org.
25 January: Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club (CUWBC) v Newcastle University. Although crews from Newcastle University should never be underestimated, the Light Blues had comfortable victories in three pieces over the course.
23 February: Oxford University Women’s Boat Club v Molesey Boat Club. As was the case with the CUBC race a month earlier, what should have been a strong challenge to the Blues was convincingly dismissed in each of the three races.
9 March: CUWBC v Imperial College. A much more evenly matched fight this time. The first race was judged a draw while Cambridge eventually won the second by 2/3 length.
15 March: Cambridge University Boat Club (CUBC) v Leander Club. In the first piece, CUBC won what was initially a tight race by 2 1/2 lengths but had less trouble in the second contest, winning by four lengths.
21 March: Oxford University Boat Club (OUBC) v Molesey Boat Club. In an impressive show of strength, Oxford beat Molesey ‘comfortably’ in a race to Chiswick steps and were victors again in the other two pieces in which MBC had a head start.
21 March: CUBC v Netherlands Eight. The Dutch eight is their ‘priority boat’ so Cambridge must have been please to fight off strong challenges from them in two pieces in rough Tideway conditions.
23 March: OUWBC v Imperial College. Another tough fight by Imperial but Oxford beat them in both pieces by four lengths in the first and by one length in the second.
The men’s crew lists are here for the Blues and here for the Reserves. The women are listed here for the Blues and here for the Reserves. There is always particular interest from the non-rowing public about the number of foreigners and internationals taking part in this British institution, many seeming to think it is a ‘new’ or ‘unfair’ phenomenon – when it is neither. A press release however, gives them the information that they want:
Both Oxford crews feature a range of international athletes….. In the Men’s Blue Boat, the O’Connor brothers from New Zealand and Tom Swartz, Michael Di Santo and William Hakim from America back up the British athletes William Geffin, Henry Goodier, James Cook and Constantine Louloudis.
The Women’s Boat mainly consists of American and British athletes, with an addition of Swiss born Nadine Graedel Iberg…… Caryn Davies, who will be the most decorated Olympian to compete in either of The Boat Races having won a silver and two golds at the Athens, Beijing and London Olympic Games, will sit in the stroke seat.
In comparison to the 2014 Cambridge Women’s crew, this year’s Blue Boat boasts a variety of different nationalities, with Canadian Ashton Brown, Americans Daphne Martschenko and Rosemary Ostfeld and Fanny Belais of France.
Once again, Ian Middleton has secured his coxing seat in the Cambridge Men’s Blue Boat, joined by fellow Brit William Warr….. Henry Hoffstot returns as stroke, supported by fellow Americans and returning Blues, Luke Juckett, Matthew Jackson and first-time Blue, Ben Ruble.
Interestingly, a number of returning Blues did not get places this year, an indication of the strength and depth that increasing professionalism brings. It is good to see that the luckless Juckett is back after a disastrous crab was forced upon him in last year’s race.
No doubt Cambridge will be hoping for a repeat of their success in the Henley Boat Races (for Oxford and Cambridge lightweight crews) on Easter Sunday when the women won by three feet and the men by one foot more. A report with an Oxford slant is in the online Cherwell while, if you prefer your coverage in a lighter shade of blue, the Varsity Online is for you. Due to indifferent ‘A’ Level results, I have no bias at all, even though there are no Oxford pictures in this piece. I hope to correct this in the next few days of Tideway Week – as well as working on my sun tan.