The 2020 Boat Race Trial Eights: Oxford’s Civil War

Oxford women from the Brown crew huddle before going afloat to race Morley.

19 December 2019

By Tim Koch

Tim Koch goes P to M – twice.

Even before 2019 draws to an end, some of us have our thoughts shifted well into 2020. This mind trick is performed by the Oxford and the Cambridge Trial Eights, four races held in December to assist the coaches in choosing crews for Boat Race Day, 29 March. To plagiarise myself:

The Trials are not contests of Light Blue v Dark Blue, they are men’s and women’s intra-university races, Oxford v Oxford and Cambridge v Cambridge, where the last sixteen rowers and last two coxswains from each squad in battle it out, usually in theoretically matched boats, all hoping to impress the coach who has to pick their final crew. The Trials are an important learning experience for rowers and coxes as well as an intense selection test, held, as they usually are, over the full 4 ¼-mile course.

This year, the Oxford men’s and women’s trials were on Wednesday, 11 December when conditions were benign and the water calm. As usual, taking notes and photographs at the same time is problematic, so my report is heavy on pictures and light on text. Note that parallax error makes the boat nearest to the camera seem to be further up than it actually is.

The Oxford Women’s Race

For the 75th Women’s Boat Race, the boats were named after the stroke (Brown) and bow (Morely) of the first Oxford Women’s Boat in 1927. Morely, dressed in white tops, was on Middlesex, and Brown, dressed in dark blue tops, was on Surrey.

Off the start and along Putney Embankment, the crews were reasonably level. Towards the end of Fulham Wall, Morley (right) started to move ahead of Brown (left).
Morley passing the works taking place at Fulham Football Ground. Here they had a lead of just under a length.
In Fulham Reach, Morley continues to pull away. At the Mile Post, they had clear water but were warned for their steering.
Brown battles on.
Approaching Harrods, Morely’s two length lead allowed them to put Brown in their puddles.
Going under Hammersmith Bridge.
Passing St Paul’s School, Brown had the advantage of the bend but it did them no good and they were perhaps three lengths down.
Nearing Chiswick Steps.
Brown’s bow five in Corney Reach where the water was less settled than it had been at the start.
At Barnes Bridge, Morley had a lead of three lengths and were washing down Brown.
A big push by Brown closed the gap in the closing stages of the race.
Morley eventually finished six seconds up.
The crew names are on the official website.

The Oxford Men’s Race

OUBC chose the names Hurley and Burly for their Trial crews. The boats are named after the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s Tower Station boat, the Hurley Burly. The RNLI is the charity partner of The Boat Race. Hurley, in blue tops, was on Middlesex, Burley, in white tops, was on Surrey.

Approaching the end of the Fulham Wall. The crews were relatively even until the Black Buoy when Hurley took a small lead.
Passing the football ground, Burley were 3/4 length down.
In Fulham Reach, Hurley draws away from Burley.
Hurley’s stroke, Augustin Wambersie, checks out the opposition.
Conditions were less benign than for the women’s race earlier.
Clear water was established before Harrods allowing Hurley to row comfortably out in front.
Under Hammersmith Bridge.
Passing Chiswick Eyot. After Hammersmith, Hurley extended their lead.
Hurley are happy.
Passing Chiswick Pier, Hurley were six lengths up.
Hurley in Corney Reach.
At Barnes Bridge.
A ‘comfortable’ win for Hurley over Burley. Crews’ names are here.
Historically, a proportion of those in the losing boats will still be selected to race in a Blue Boat on the big day itself.


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