1 April 2017
Tim Koch writes:
I have often said that, considering that they are ‘two horse’ events, predicting the results of Oxford–Cambridge Boat Races is a very difficult thing. Possibly this is because, unlike real horse races, there is no ‘form guide’ for the participants. The men’s and the women’s Blue Boats may do all sorts of races in all sorts of combinations for the nine months that they are together, but they race the real enemy over the real and unique course only once, in the only event that counts – The Boat Race on Boat Race Day. For me, predictions are made more difficult by personal doubts over my ability to analyse high performance rowing and also by my cowardliness about making public pronouncements that could easily be proved wrong. However, Daniel Spring has no such fears (or, if he does, he hides them well). Daniel writes ‘Fatsculler’s rowing blog’. He analyses major rowing events and then boldly predicts the winners. I am not sure what his success rate is but, good or bad, his well-informed work still makes interesting reading. For events between two boats, he uses the technique of comparing bow with bow, ‘2’ with ‘2’ etc. and picking a ‘winner’ between each pair. This journalistic method makes for interesting reading, but I am sure that Daniel would agree that a crew is more than the sum of its parts, and I imagine that this system is not the final decider for his predictions.
I hope that Daniel will not mind me quoting at length from his pieces on the Men’s and the Women’s Oxford–Cambridge Boat Races. If he is correct, I will bask in the reflected glory, and, if he is wrong, it is nothing to do with me.
Fatsculler on the men’s race, posted on 19 March:
The build-up to the race has been fascinating.
Cambridge definitely fared better when the two squads met at the Head of the River Fours with their top coxed boat beating the top Oxford boat. Both crews have raced Oxford Brookes, winners of the Head of the River and Temple Challenge Cup last year.
In the two pieces against Cambridge the honours were even in the first race, but in the second the Light Blues struggled in the rough water and went down by two lengths.
Against Oxford it was Brookes who struggled in the rough allowing the Dark Blues to win the first piece comfortably. In the second, it was much closer with Oxford leading by ¾ length coming into the final stretch and just managing to hold off a late Brookes surge to win by a few seats. So, advantage Oxford……
Oxford raced Leander (on 18 March) dispatching them quite comfortably. Cambridge’s final fixture was against a strong (albeit scratch) Italian National squad boat containing all the top Italian oarsmen (including world and Olympic medallists). The first piece resulted in a narrow win for the visitors. The second piece looked like it was going to be another close race until the Italians hit rough water and their lack of fitness began to tell, allowing Cambridge to take three lengths off them in 90 seconds. This would have been a big morale booster for Steve Trapmore’s men, the Italians were a class outfit.
But, after all of the pre-race fixtures it’s definitely the Dark Blues who have emerged the stronger.… Cambridge’s fortunes have been a bit more mixed, and Trapmore will be under pressure to deliver a strong performance….. In my seat by seat comparison, I have it 7 – 2 in the Dark Blues favour. Unfortunately for the Light Blues, I’m going to go for a Dark Blue win by at least three lengths.
Fatsculler on the women’s race, posted on 18 March:
I’ve put Cambridge ahead in seven of the nine seats and their performances so far this season have shown that coach, Rob Baker, has put together an outstanding boat, possibly the finest Cambridge crew for a number of years. In recent fixtures Oxford had a good battle with Oxford Brookes, having to come from behind on both occasions to win. Whilst Cambridge haven’t had a match race against Brookes, they both competed at the recent Women’s Head of the River with the Light Blues finishing 38 seconds ahead of Brookes. At the Reading University Head of the River, Oxford were the fastest women’s crew, thirteen seconds faster than Brookes. I think it’s clear from the pedigree of the crew and their performances so far this season that Cambridge will be favourites on April 2nd. I’m picking a Light Blue win by three lengths.
Tim comments: Whatever the result of the women’s race, I hope that the winning distance is relatively small. On the move to the Tideway in 2015, the verdict was 6 1/2 lengths and last year it was 24 lengths. It does not do the event’s credibility much good to have such big margins of victory – though I suppose that the men’s race has survived despite many such results throughout its long history.
Remember, if both the Oxford men and the Cambridge women do win, you heard it here second.