The Can Tabs and the Can’t Tabs: The Cambridge Men’s Trial Eights

More than a Baker’s dozen – the last eighteen in the CUBC men’s squad try to impress the coach.

22 December 2021

By Tim Koch

Tim Koch follows the heavy Light Blues.

The CUBC Men’s Chief Coach, Rob Baker (left) and Old Blue James Cracknell (right).
The final crews (the crew list on the video is not as they lined up). New Zealand Olympian Jamie Hunter, who was expected to stroke one of the boats, is injured. Mr Sleepy on Middlesex was stroked by Tom George, Bronze Medalist in the GB Eight at Tokyo, and a man with a 2k of 5.39.6. Burpees on Surrey had another GB Eight Tokyo Bronze Medalist Ollie Wynne-Griffith at “5” plus Swiss Olympian Simon Schürch, at “6”.

Commentator Martin Cross called the crews “One of the strongest squads that coach Rob Baker has put together”. While the Oxford Squad has five returning Blues and Cambridge three, the Light Blues do have a lot of last year’s reserve crew, Goldie, all of whom have obviously been through the Boat Race experience.

The “landing craft” style press boat and umpires launch is steered from the stern and so the assistant umpire, Matthew Holland, had to relay instructions regarding speed and distance from umpire Matt Smith in the bows. Smith and/or Holland were keen that they should be very close to the nearest eight and the result was that with the landing craft’s high bow ramp, the crews were often lost to the view of everyone but the standing umpire. In the previous day’s Oxford race, the umpire was content to stay further back.

I could not see anything for the first two minutes of the race but, looking at the recoding of it on YouTube, off the start, cox Charlie Marcus on Middlesex steered Mr Sleepy aggressively to Surrey to get the centre line – though this early use of the rudder did not stop his crew taking an immediate 1/3 length lead.

A screenshot taken one-and-a-half minutes into the race. The LUDUM 500m splits clearly show that Burpees had to keep on their starting pace for longer to stay in touch with Mr Sleepy – a move that turned out to be a wise one. The parallax error makes Burpees look as if they are ahead.
Passing Barn Elms at two minutes in, I got my first (somewhat restricted) view of the crews – just as Burpees went ahead (despite being pushed to Surrey by Charlie Marcus in Mr Sleepy). Both crews were rating 35.
In the run along Fulham Reach and in the approach to Hammersmith Bridge, Burpees slowly edged out their lead as the bend went in their favour.
After Hammersmith, Burpees at 34/33 relaxed into a great rhythm (something easier to do when you are ahead) as Mr Sleepy fell behind rating 33/32 and rowing in their opponents’ puddles. These rates were maintained by both crews almost to the finish.
At about 10 minutes in and approaching Chiswick Pier, Charlie Marcus used his opponents lead to switch stations into faster water.
Charlie’s move resulted in a noticeable increase in the speed of his boat – but it was too late.
Passing Chiswick Pier.
Approaching Mortlake.
Barnes Bridge.
As I said yesterday of Oxford’s Gondor crew when they were in the same position as Mr Sleepy is here, the coach is probably looking more at the losing crew than at the winning one to see how they react under pressure.
Closing on the former Mortlake Brewery.
Approaching The Ship.
The last few strokes. Burpees won by 1 1/2 – 2 lengths.
Fist bumps at the end of a very civil war.

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