Cambridge Trial Eights: Rapinoe and Youth are First Among Equals

In the Cambridge Men’s Trial Eights run over the Tideway Championship Course last Monday, Lightweight Blue Matt Edge (pictured) stroked “Experience”. His crew raced against “Youth”, stroked by the bowman of last year’s Blue Boat, Luca Ferraro.

18 December 2022

By Tim Koch

Tim Koch witnesses a very civil war.

As I almost wrote yesterday, with a little over 100 days before Boat Race Day 2023, Monday 12 December saw the probable last eighteen rowers in consideration for the final nine seats in both the Cambridge men’s and Cambridge women’s Blue Boats trying to impress the coaches with their performance competing over the Putney to Mortlake course.

Monday was not as cold as the previous day when the Oxford Trials had been held. Sunday saw icy frost on the Fairbairn memorial but, 24-hours later, it was warmer and Steve was only covered in a light dusting of snow.

As I noted in my Oxford piece, because of the difficulty of taking pictures and making notes at the same time, I have taken the liberty of using the uncredited race reports that are on the British Rowing website, slightly edited and reproduced in italics here (the italicised picture captions are mine).

On the day before, there had been boat naming ceremonies involving new craft belonging to the Cambridge alumni club, Crabtree, sited on the Putney Embankment. An eight was Christened “Donald” by the indefatigable Donald Legget, who has been involved in Cambridge rowing since 1962. The allegedly curmudgeonly Legget looked pleased with the honour – but he did point out that his name had been illuminated in his least favourite shade of blue.

The Cambridge Women’s Trial Eights

Downstream of Putney Rail Bridge, the two Cambridge women’s trial eights crews wait to turn onto the start. In the foreground is “Rapinoe” and in the background is “Meade”.

(The) CUBC women named their crews after two of the world’s greatest footballers: Megan Rapinoe, USA, and Beth Mead, England. Both are inspirational and huge advocates for women’s sport…

Racing on Middlesex, Mead, stroked by Canadian senior international Claire Brillon, took a half length lead along the moored boats, leading into the Fulham bend. Rapinoe, stroked by Lightweight Blue Rosa Millard, held their own around the bend, and pushed along (Fulham) Reach. 

Leading into Hammersmith, Mead moved to three quarters of a length lead, but Rapinoe took advantage of the inside of the bend and three points of rate to move up and challenge for the lead. Pushing ahead past the Dove, Mead was warned for steering, and after a series of blade clashes, Mead suffered a boat stopping crab.

(Coach Paddy Ryan told umpire Matt Smith) to re-start the race at Chiswick Eyot, giving both crews the opportunity to finish out the race. The decision was vindicated, Mead taking a good start to move to the lead after the re-start, but chased past Chiswick Steps by Rapinoe. 

Shooting Barnes Bridge half a length ahead, Mead took the inside, but Rapinoe were not to be denied, increasing the rate and pushing level as the crews passed Duke’s Meadows.

Mead was equal to the challenge, and the race was decided by a margin so close that the crews were unable to tell who had won. Six inches to Rapinoe! Given that the coaches had sought to select matched crews, it’s surely they who were the outright winners from this fantastic race.

Approaching Tea Rose Buoy (downstream of Harrods) “Rapinoe” is on Surrey (left) and is perhaps half-a-length down on “Meade” on Middlesex (right).
“Rapinoe”, stroked by Rosa Millard.
“Meade”, stroked by Claire Brillon with President Caoimhe Dempsey at “7”.
Although parallax error makes it appear different, Meade were three-quarters of a length up at Hammersmith Bridge.
In a clash between the two boats downstream of Chiswick Eyot, Mead’s bow, Vera Kunz, came off worst.
Kunz struggles to regain her blade. Her backstay was bent in the clash.
After the clash, Coach Ryan decided to restart the race with the crews level.
The restarted race was a hard fought affair with Meade slightly in front for most of the time.
At Barnes Bridge.
At the finish, the eccentric verdict was six-inches to Rapinoe. This is not a distance that can be measured in a Tideway race and it should really have been declared a dead heat. 
Rapinoe in recovery.
Meade contemplate alleged defeat.
English winemakers Chapel Down (“Official Celebration Partner of The Gemini Boat Race”) gave a bottle of its wine to every trial eights participant. Here, post-race in London RC’s Long Room, the Cambridge women collect their rewards from President Caoimhe Dempsey. Possibly, the hot drinks supplied by LRC were more welcome.
The final Blue Boat will include members of both the winning and the losing trial crews.

The Cambridge Men’s Trial Eights

On the start: “Experience” was on Surrey (left) and “Youth” was on Middlesex (right).

The CUBC men’s Trial Eights crews… were a polarisation of ‘youth’ and ‘experience’, noting their mix of graduates and undergraduates. President Ollie Boyne coxed Experience, while (2022) Women’s Boat Race Blue Jasper Parish coxed Youth.

Within a minute, both crews were keeping umpire Tony Reynolds busy, but around the Fulham bend Youth took a lead on their inside bend. Coming to Harrods, Experience showed, pushing back and challenging to maintain their inside station. Shooting Hammersmith Bridge, both crews were challenging for the lead, and it took until the (halfway point) for Youth to draw out a half length lead.

Up to Chiswick Steps, Matt Edge drove Experience along, making sure that they did not lose contact leading into the outside of the last bend. Experience pushed and clawed on the outside of the bend, making ground on their Youthful colleagues. The race was not, however, long enough for them to make up the margin as Youth took an exuberant third of a length win over Experience, another result to the credit of the light blue coaches who had tried hard to select matched crews.

The crews reach the end of the Fulham Wall.
Approaching Tea Rose Buoy, Youth leads Experience.
By Hammersmith Bridge, Experience had reduced Youth’s lead.
Alongside Chiswick Eyot.
Edge’s crew maintained overlap throughout the race. 
Shooting Barnes Bridge.
Youth were pushed all the way.
Approaching the former Mortlake Brewery.
At the finish, Youth were a third of a length up.
Two good crews acknowledge a great race. Picture: Benedict Tufnell/Row360 via @CUBCsquad.
The British Rowing website also reports on the Oxford and Cambridge men’s and women’s lightweight trials, held on the same days as their open weight contemporaries. Pictured here are the Cambridge men, the crews named “Stirling” and “Mayne” after two of the founding members of the SAS, David Stirling and Paddy Mayne, who allegedly kept score between them of their various actions.

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.

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