17 December 2022
By Tim Koch
Tim Koch is Dark Blue with cold.
With a little over 100 days before Boat Race Day 2023, Sunday 11 December saw the probable last eighteen rowers in consideration for the final nine seats in both the Oxford men’s and Oxford women’s Blue Boats trying to impress the coaches with their performance competing over the Putney to Mortlake course. Tomorrow’s report will cover the Cambridge Trials held on the following day.
I was lucky enough to be able to photograph the races from the following press launch but this gave rise to the usual difficulty of taking pictures and making notes at the same time. Thus, for the Oxford men’s race and for both Cambridge races I have taken the liberty of using the three uncredited reports that are on the British Rowing website, slightly edited and reproduced in italics here (the italicised captions are mine).
The Oxford Women’s Trial Eights
The Oxford women chose the names Athena and Artemis for the two crews. The two Greek goddesses were sometimes in conflict and would support different sides in battles between mortals.
When umpire Matt Smith dropped his flag at the start, Artemis on Middlesex took a slight lead despite immediately steering over to Surrey and were a canvas up after the first minute. As the bend began to work to their advantage, Artemis extended their lead to perhaps half-a-length. However, at around three-and-a-half minutes in, Athena struck 34.5 strokes-per-minute while their opponents remained at 30, even though their bend advantage was running out. By four minutes, Athena had settled well into race pace, had taken the lead and were moving away, even before they really hit their bend advantage.
By Hammersmith Bridge, there was clear water between the boats, Artemis was rowing in Athena’s puddles, having lost contact and unable to respond. At Hammersmith Pier, Athena was clocked at 33.5, Artemis at 34, but Athena with fine bladework and a lively rhythm, were getting more run per stroke. Just past the half-way point, the Artemis cox switched stations but this could not save the situation. With both at 33 strokes-per-minute, there was a procession to the finish where there was about a twenty-second gap between the two crews.
The Oxford Men’s Trial Eights
Wedge established a small lead soon off the start, which they extended when the crews had a substantial clash near the Mile Post, from which Beetle lost about half a length. By Hammersmith Bridge, Wedge had three quarters of a length lead but Beetle fought back around the outside of the long Surrey bend, suggesting that they were actually the faster crew. They moved ahead to a lead of about three quarters of a length by the crossing point before the bandstand but despite Umpire Tony Reynolds constantly warning both coxes, the crews had another major clash, which caused Wedge’s bowman Andrew Wakefield to catch an over the head crab. Beetle rowed away with what was now a clear water lead, which they maintained to the end.
The 2023 Gemini Boat Race is on Sunday, 26th March. The 77th Women’s Race is at 4pm and the 168th Men’s Race is at 5pm.