30 December 2022
By Tim Koch
Like a winning coxswain, Tim Koch looks forwards – and backwards.
The conclusion of the Christmas Holiday and New Year festivities herald what for many in the Northern Hemisphere are the dullest months of the year. January and February in particular are usually cold, dark and seemingly never ending. My method of dealing with this is to use the Boat Race Calendar as a countdown to the brighter days of spring and summer. Helpfully, the Boat Race Company has just published the significant dates leading to 26 March and Boat Race Day 2023.
The dates of “Fixtures” take up most space on this calendar. In these, top British and foreign crews race potential Oxford and Cambridge Blue and reserve crews, usually over sections of the Putney to Mortlake course. They both assist the coaches in deciding crew selection and also provide important race practice, giving the experience of competing against top-class opposition and also providing opportunities for the rowers and coxes to simulate race day as much as possible. They get to know the course, can practise routines and starts, get to race on both the Surrey and the Middlesex stations and have the experience of being properly umpired.
Sunday, 22 January
Cambridge Women ‘A’ v Oxford Brookes University Boat Club
Saturday, 4 February
11:15 Oxford Women ‘B’ v Molesey Boat Club
11:30 Oxford Women ‘A’ v Molesey Boat Club
11:45 Oxford Men ‘B’ v Imperial College Boat Club
12:00 Oxford Men ‘A’ v Molesey Boat Club
Sunday, 5 February – Live on YouTube
11:40 Cambridge Women ‘A’ v University of London Boat Club
12:00 Cambridge Women ‘B’ v University of London Boat Club
12:20 Cambridge Lightweight Women v Imperial College Boat Club
12:45 Cambridge Men ‘B’ v University of London Boat Club
13:10 Cambridge Men ‘A’ v Dutch National Team
Sunday, 12 February
15:45 Oxford Women ‘A’ v TBC
16:05 Oxford Women ‘B’ v TBC
16:25 Oxford Men Lightweight fixture
16:45 Oxford Women Lightweight fixture
Sunday, 19 February
11:00 Cambridge Women ‘A’ v Thames Rowing Club
11:15 Cambridge Women ‘B’ v Thames Rowing Club
11:30 Cambridge Lightweight Women v Thames Rowing Club
11:45 Cambridge Men ‘B’ v Leander
12:00 Cambridge Men ‘A’ v Leander
Saturday, 25 February
15:40 Oxford Men ‘A’ v Oxford Brookes University Boat Club 1
16:00 OUBC Men ‘B’ v Oxford Brookes University Boat Club 2
16:20 Oxford Men Lightweight fixture
16:40 Oxford Women Lightweight fixture
Sunday, 26 February
16:05 Oxford Women ‘A’ v Leander
16:20 Oxford Women ‘B’ v Leander
11:30 Cambridge Lightweight Men v Oxford Brookes University Boat Club
11:45 Cambridge Men ‘B’ v Oxford Brookes University Boat Club
12:00 Cambridge Men ‘A’ v Oxford Brookes University Boat Club
Sunday, 12 March – Live on YouTube
14:20 Cambridge Women ‘B’ v Leander Club
14:40 Oxford Women ‘A’ v Oxford Brookes University Boat Club
15:00 Cambridge Women ‘A’ v Leander Club
15:20 Oxford Women ‘B’ v Oxford Brookes University Boat Club
15:35 Oxford Men ‘B’ v Leander Club 2
15:50 Oxford Men ‘A’ v Leander Club 1
The announcement of the final crews for the Blue Boats will be on 6 March. Until recently, this would also have included the weigh-in but in 2022 the women decided that they did not want to be weighed and only the men agreed to the slightly undignified procedure (though the weights announced at the time were not published). I do not know if the men will agree to be weighed this year, but I can imagine a time when they will not. Henley no longer publishes weights in its programme.
Tideway Week, when the crews move into accommodation in or near Putney and make their last physical and mental preparations for the big day, will begin somewhere around 18 March. In 2017, the official website got quite poetical about these final days:
In many senses, (Tideway Week) is a peculiar period; a suspension in time, the deep breath that tends to precede a moment of great significance. The flashpoint nature of a Boat Race season, with its assorted fixtures and distinct lack of pre-race contact, fades to become a final one-lane road which all four crews must take together.
The serenity of a hazy morning on the Thames, a typical scene that greets anyone who involves themselves in the next few days, belies a rising sense of anticipation as the zenith of nine months of preparation approaches.
Crews take to the water, each stroke meticulously and rigorously analysed by coaches searching for that extra inch. Much of the hard work has been done – weeks of training broken down through testing to select the fastest athletes for each boat.
Between them, the 36 Blue Boat athletes and various support staff will have moved to London around a week (before the race) to begin final preparations. Routine defines a rower’s life – it is perhaps the only way to thrive with a schedule as demanding as the student athlete…. There are only marginal improvements to be made, but every second spent on the unpredictable championship course is valuable.