The 2023 Oxbridge Vets’ Boat Races: Surviving “Masters’ Moments”
29 March 2023
By Tim Koch
Tim Koch follows his favourite Boat Races.
On Boat Race Eve, the 2nd Women’s and 27th Men’s Oxford – Cambridge Veterans’ (aka Masters’) Boat Race was run over the approximately one-and-a-half-mile course from Putney Stone to Furnivall Steps, a distance usually covered by the men in seven minutes plus and by the women in nine minutes plus. The finishing point is where the bends even out, the first half of the race favouring Middlesex, the second Surrey.
As we age, it can be common to suffer “senior moments”, the non-medical term for a brief lapse of memory or a moment of confusion. I imagine that, not too long into their race, many of the rowers (particularly those in second place) had a “masters’ moment”, that is the inability to remember why they had agreed to take part in a Tideway match race, something that hurt badly enough when they did it possessing a body that was perhaps 20-30 years younger.
One of the participants in the 2003 Boat Race reunion sprint race that took place just after the Vet’s Boat Races said, “It’s not like any other sport, you get forty seconds in and it hurts like hell, and another forty seconds in and you can’t feel your teeth…”
The Women’s Race
With Matt Smith umpiring (as he would the Women’s Boat Race the next day), Oxford went off at a higher rate than Cambridge and initially took a slight lead. The Light Blues, stroked by Fran Rawlins backed up by Sarah Winckless, were unfazed and both crews settled in the mid-30s.
Umpire Matt Smith summed up the race: “Oxford hung on until the (end of the) Fulham Wall and then they could only do so much more hanging…”
The BBC uses the Vets’ Races as filming practice for Boat Race Day. The results are not broadcast but are available to view on YouTube. The Women’s Race starts at 3 mins 56 secs into the recording below.
The Men’s Race
David Dix, who rowed at “3” in the Cambridge boat and who was the old man of the crew at 55, said, “We hit a rhythm very early, it was a wonderful row actually, I loved every second of it, I wanted to keep going… Henry was calling 1.20 splits and we were just knocking them out…”
I asked race umpire Tony Reynolds to sum up the race and he did it rather succinctly: “One warning and then Cambridge moved away.”
In the BBC coverage on YouTube, the race starts at 7 mins 44 secs in.
Rachel Quarrell’s Vets’ Race reports are on the official Boat Race website.