23 November 2021
By Tim Koch
Tim Koch balances camera, canapés and warm white wine.
It was mildly incongruous that an event that signals the start of the 2022 Oxford – Cambridge Boat Race season should be held high above London’s financial district in the gleaming monument to Mammon that houses the UK headquarters of the Australian multinational investment bank and financial services company, the Macquarie Group. However, a setting geared to business and not pleasure did not distract from the sporting traditions of Oxford – Cambridge Boat Race Presidents’ Challenge, the occasion when those University Boat Club Presidents whose crew lost the last contest get their opposite numbers to agree to a rematch.
In 2021, Oxford’s men and women both came second so it was up to the Dark Blues to take the lead. First, Amelia Standing, President of Oxford University Women’s Boat Club, challenged her Cambridge counterpart, Bronya Sykes, in the time-honoured manner:
I, Amelia Standing, President of the Oxford University Women’s Boat Club, challenge you, Bronya Sykes, on behalf of Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club, to an eight-oared race on the Championship Course, from Putney to Mortlake, on 3rd April 2022. Do you accept?
Then, Martin Barakso, the OUBC President, challenged Charlie Marcus, President of CUBC, in a similar manner.
For the record, both challenges were accepted, and Boat Race Day 2022 will go ahead over the Putney to Mortlake Course (raging pandemics, collapsing bridges and the Ten Plagues of Egypt allowing).
At present, the four squads number just under thirty hopefuls each and all have some remarkable athletes onboard – plus a good number of Boat Race veterans.
The Cambridge women have five Blues returning from last year, including Imogen Grant who was fourth in the GB women’s lightweight double in the Tokyo Olympics. Joining these will be Ruby Tew (who was in the New Zealand Quad at Tokyo and eight in Rio) and fellow Kiwi, Grace Prendergast (who was in her country’s Tokyo pair and eight where she won gold and silver respectively and who is famous for her pairs partnership with Kerri Gowler).
Oxford’s women have four Blues returning from last year. International members of the squad include Canadian 2020 Olympian Gabrielle Smith, U.S. National Openweight, Erin Reelick, and U.S. National Lightweight, Christine Cavallo, a veteran of seven World Championships.
In the men’s squads, Cambridge has three returning Blues, including Canadian International, Martin Barakso. Boat movers include GB Olympic Bronze Medalists at Tokyo, Tom George and Ollie Wynne-Griffith, and Rio Olympians, James Hunter of New Zealand and Simon Schürch of Switzerland.
The Oxford boys have five Blues returning, including Augustin Wambersie and Tobias Schroder, both of who raced in 2019, 2020 and 2021. The Dark Blues’ Tokyo Olympians are Liam Corrigan from the U.S. and Team GB Tokyo Silver Medalist, Angus Groom. Also in the Oxford Squad are two Swiss participants in both the Rio and the Tokyo Games, Barnabe Delarze and Roman Röösli.
The 120-odd athletes will be doing a lot of hard work over the next four months doing twelve sessions per week with a day off only every two to three weeks. They have recently done the Fours Head as one of the first big “performance indicators” (although the Oxford men allegedly did not get their entries in on time). In December, there will be Trial Eights over the Putney to Mortlake Course where each of the four squads’ last eighteen will race each other in eights. Training camps abroad will follow in January while February and March will see the Club Fixtures over all or part of the Tideway course. Here, possible Blue Boat crews will race top British and foreign club boats.
Despite being two-horse races, the Oxford – Cambridge Boat Races are rarely easy to predict but 2022 seems even more difficult than usual. The only certain thing is that, with so many Big Guns recruited by the four squads, they will all go with a bang.