7 March 2018
Tim Koch is leaning on the second lamppost.
The River Thames between Putney and Mortlake is a busy place at present. Crews are practising for both the Women’s Head of the River Race on Saturday, 10 March, and for the (men’s) Head of the River Race held on the following day. Only 24 hours later, the Schools’ Head will take place. There is also a disproportionate amount of traffic produced by the upcoming Boat Race Day, even though it is an event involving only eight crews, about 972 boats less than the combined entries for the three Heads. With three weeks to go before the Oxbridge clash, the weekend of 3-4 March saw the final fixture races between some Oxford and Cambridge crews and boats from top student and open clubs.
On Saturday, 3 March, Oxford took on the University of London (UL). Two weeks previously, Cambridge had convincingly beaten UL in three pieces over the course, the first by three lengths, the second by ‘several’ lengths, and the third by two lengths.
Unfortunately, there was no press launch for the sole race from the Boat Race start at Putney to Chiswick Steps. I photographed the fixture from Hammersmith Bridge and have taken the other pictures reproduced below (and also the captions) from the official Twitter feed, @theboatraces.
According to @theboatraces, Oxford won ‘by a few lengths of clear water’, a good result for them but one that told us nothing about who may win on Boat Race Day. Perhaps a race held the next day, Sunday, would help in predicting the future? This was Cambridge versus Oxford Brookes University Boat Club (OBUBC). In the previous week, Oxford had lost both their races against Brookes by about a length each time.
As usual, the parallax error inherent in picturing a two-boat race from behind and at the side makes the crew closest to the camera look to be in the lead when they are not, or further ahead than they actually were.
Cambridge won the toss and chose the Surrey station. The first piece was from the start to Chiswick Steps, the second from Chiswick Eyot to the end of the course at Chiswick Bridge.
What do we know with three weeks to go? On 6 December, rowing pundit Daniel ‘Fatsculler’ Spring wrote:
Neither look to be significantly ahead of the other. Cambridge gained the early season bragging rights at the Head of the River Fours, but Oxford produced some excellent results at the GB Trials. Oxford have the greater international experience with the likes of Weiss and Bugajski, but Cambridge have some outstanding Under 23 international oarsmen in their squad. It really is too close to call…
The day after the crew announcement on 26 February, Daniel did his usual seat by seat comparison (though I am sure that he would be the first to admit that this is an interesting but unscientific method). He concluded that:
I’ve picked Oxford ahead in four seats with Cambridge ahead in three – and two evens. By that reckoning the Dark Blues should have the edge, but, as a unit Cambridge look to be the stronger… So, despite picking the Dark Blues just ahead in a seat-by-seat comparison, I’m going to go for a Light Blue victory. But, I think it could be very close, possibly one of the closest for many years.
Last year, Daniel correctly predicted the results of the men’s and women’s races – though not the distances.
So, both the Oxford and the Cambridge Blue Boats lost to Brookes by around a length each time they went head to head. The difference is that Brookes led Oxford for almost all of the duration of their contests, while, when Cambridge raced Brookes, the Light Blues led for most of the first race and for perhaps half of the second. How significant this is can only be speculated on. The only sure thing is that it should be a great and close race between the Oxford and the Cambridge men when they finally meet on 24 March.