The 2020 Boat Race Trial Eights: Tab on Tab

Adriana Perez Rotondo from Spain rowed at ‘4’ in Myosin in their race against Actin.

20 December 2019

By Tim Koch

Tim Koch experiences déjà vu – again.

Four days after the Oxford men and women ran their Trial Eights, on 16 December it was Cambridge’s turn for the last 16 rowers and last two coxswains from each squad in battle it out over the full Putney to Mortlake course, all hoping to impress the coach who has to pick their final crew.

Unusually, the Cambridge men’s squad is running three eights into the New Year. Before the eights went off, the remaining members of the squad went into two coxed fours that raced each other over the course.

The Cambridge Women’s Race

The crews were named Myosin and Actin after two proteins which pull against each other in muscle contraction.

Women’s race umpire, Judith Packer, displays her crib notes.
Caoimhe (‘Quee-va’) Dempsey, the stroke of Actin, perhaps in pre-race meditation.
Tricia Smith, ‘7’ in Actin, also in a reflective mood.
Actin was in white on Surrey while Myosin raced in black tops on Middlesex. Off the start, the crews kept well apart, though both coxes spent a long time steering too close to Middlesex. By the end of Putney Embankment, Actin was slightly ahead. Parallax error makes the boat nearest to the camera seem to be further up than it actually is.
Actin take the lead.
Along Fulham Reach, Actin extended its lead.
At Hammersmith Bridge, Actin’s lead over Myosin was ‘comfortable’ even before it got the full benefit of the bend.
Myosin passing Furnivall Green.
At Chiswick Steps.
Actin approaching Barnes Bridge.
Myosin under Barnes Bridge, four lengths down on Actin.
Towards Mortlake.
Approaching the finish, Myosin put in a strong push and closed the gap, but Actin remained in control and crossed the finish line two lengths up. The crews are listed here.

Cambridge Men: The Dark Blues

The men’s race want off at 15.45, five minutes before the official time of sunset. Taking photographs of fast moving objects that are far away and in low light from an unstable platform is not without its problems, as the quality of the following pictures shows.
Boogaloo, in white tops, was on Surrey, Electric, in black tops, was on Middlesex. The crews were level to the end of the Embankment.
Boogaloo and Electric providing exciting one-on-one racing.
For a time after the Mile Post, Electric went 1/4 length before the crews drew level again. Umpire Winckless was kept very busy warning both crews and blades briefly touched several times.
Perhaps Boogaloo came out of this clash the best.
By Hammersmith, Boogaloo had taken the lead.
At St Paul’s School, Boogaloo led by 3/4 length.
Passing Chiswick Eyot. Boogaloo had taken advantage of the long bend and opened up a lead of 1 length.
Approaching Barnes Bridge, Electric tried to take advantage of their bend and make up some distance.
Both crews wind up for the finish line.
Boogaloo cross the finish line about a length up. The crew lists are here.

With this year’s Trial Eights done, the squads return home for a final few weeks of training before the holidays. Winter training camp begins in early January and then February and March will see fixtures against crews from other top clubs over parts of the Tideway course.

A graphic from theboatrace.org showing the Boat Race Season. The next stage is Club Fixtures held in February and March. HTBS will be there.

As we do not know what were in the minds of the Oxford and Cambridge men’s and women’s coaches when they formed their Trial crews, it is difficult to draw conclusions. Were they testing units or were they testing individuals? Were the crews supposed to be ‘matched’? Probably the Cambridge men came out best, showing more depth of talent than the other squads. However, the Fours Head first boat results showed some close times and, ultimately, only eight good oars and one good steers are needed to win on 29 March.

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