4 February 2023
By Tim Koch
The Boat Race Club Fixtures, when top British and foreign crews race potential Oxford and Cambridge Blue and reserve crews over sections of the Putney to Mortlake course, are an important part of the Boat Race Season. Coaches get the chance to see how individuals perform under race conditions, rowers experience competing against top-class opposition and coxswains can practice steering the unique course alongside another crew while being umpired.
Tomorrow, Sunday, 5 February (50 days before Boat Race Day) there will be five fixtures run with the Cambridge men’s and women’s “A” crew races livestreamed on the Boat Race YouTube Channel (Oxford’s turn comes on 12 March).
The official Boat Race website has this generous invitation:
Watch CUBC take on University of London and the Dutch National Team, in a series of exciting races on Sunday, 5 February.
Enjoy all the action LIVE on YouTube or join us at London Rowing Club from 10am-3pm to watch the races on the big screen and enjoy some refreshments.
If you choose to watch in person, you will also be able to watch Isis take on Imperial and spot CUBC lightweight fixtures against Imperial and University of London (these fixtures are not livestreamed).
Dress in your club colours! ALL WELCOME. Address: London Rowing Club, 7 Putney Embankment, SW15.
Sunday’s timetable is:
11:20 Oxford Men B v Imperial
11:40 Cambridge Women A v University of London
12:00 Cambridge Women B v University of London
12:45 Cambridge Men B v University of London
13:10 Cambridge Men A v Dutch National Team
Of course, today we take for granted the ability to watch such events anywhere in the world on all sorts of devices, some that fit into a pocket. But, any young people reading (unlikely, I know) may be shocked to learn that this was not always the case.
In 1929, a popular magazine published a piece titled, “Oxford’s sound-recorder: Guy Nickalls comments”. During training in February 1929, the Oxford crew had been filmed using the new “Vitaphone” process – though whether this was done for the cinema newsreel or as a training aid is not clear.
As befits a privileged man born in 1866, Guy Nickalls could be a reactionary figure. Guy’s son, Gully, held that his father’s tact was “atrocious… he could never modify his point of view for the benefit of any one of the company.” However, it seems that the reactionary could also be a visionary. Under the magazine picture of “Oxford’s sound recorder”, Guy wrote about the benefits of playing back sound film to the oarsmen involved “and slowed up or stopped completely as and when required. The crew would see themselves as they were rowing, they would hear the coach’s voice…”
While the above film of Oxford’s 1928 crew in training does not have sound, it does make full use of slow motion.
After looking at what was possible at the time, Guy then looked to the future:
But why stop at this? Why not coach from the armchair at home in perfect comfort before a nice warm fire, or from the club or office…? With the loudspeaker, the microphone, the television set, the broadcasting apparatus, the receiver, etc., all in position, the coach, with his cigar and whisky and soda before him, without any chance of catching influenza or getting cold feet, will no doubt in the very near future sit in his armchair and coach the crew in perfect comfort.
Was Guy being serious? Perhaps there is a clue in his final thought:
There will be no need of coxswains, the craft will also be electronically controlled from the club or armchair.
Sunday, 26 March 2023 will see the 77th Women’s Boat Race, the 51st Women’s Reserve Race (Osiris v Blondie), the 58th Men’s Reserve Race (Isis v Goldie) and the 168th Men’s Boat Race.