Boat Race Day From Three Perspectives. Part II: On The Water

The Putney Stone marking the University Boat Race start is currently obscured due to construction work, but this is how it should look.

4 April 2023

By Tim Koch

Tim Koch continues with his visual impressions of Boat Race Day 2023.

Yesterday, I noted that, as usual, I am working on the fairly safe assumption that HTBS Types will have watched the broadcast of Boat Race live or on catch-up and may have also read some newspaper and online reports on the day. Thus, I am not going to produce my own version of written race reports but instead just let my photographs give an impression of the day.

I was allocated a place in the media launch following the women’s race, so the first of my three posts began yesterday and covered the start at Putney. Today, I look at the women’s race in its entirety and the men’s race at the finish. I will conclude tomorrow with the emotional scenes back on dry land at Mortlake.  

The Women’s Race

The women’s Blue boats on the start. Umpire Matt Smith raises the red flag to start the 77th Oxford – Cambridge Women’s Boat Race, this one Olympian-free and containing six undergraduates.
Oxford, the underdogs, surprised most people with their strong start.
If Cambridge were thrown by their opponents initially going two seats up, they hid it well. Their cox, James Trotman, was no doubt confident of the power in his boat. 
Oxford could not sustain their initial lead. Underpowered compared to their opponents and not helped by the difficult water, when the Dark Blues needed to take advantage of the bend, they could not.
Oxford: Laurel Kaye, Claire Aitken, Sara Helin, Ella Stadler, Alison Carrington, Freya Willis, Sarah Marshall, Esther Austin, Tara Slade (cox).
Cambridge: Carina Graf, Rosa Millard, Alex Riddell-Webster, Jenna Armstrong, Freya Keto, Isabelle Bastian, Claire Brillon, Caoimhe Dempsey, James Trotman (cox).
The Mile Post yellow timing flag in the background went down at 4 min 31 sec for Cambridge and Oxford followed 1.30 secs later.
Oxford in Crabtree Reach, staying sharp in trying conditions.
Cambridge in Crabtree Reach, locked into a strong rhythm.
Oxford coach, Andy Nelder, checks the rates. 
Approaching Hammersmith Bridge, Cambridge appeared to have the race in hand – but Oxford were to have one last chance of victory.
Just before Hammersmith Bridge, Cambridge cox James Trotman, had cut in front of Oxford despite not having the required one-length lead and ignored the warnings of umpire Smith. Oxford cox, Tara Slade, did the only thing that she could have done and called for an all out effort to bump Cambridge and have them disqualified. They came close but no contact was made.
The Hammersmith Bridge time for Cambridge was 8 min 11 secs with Oxford 2.80 secs later.
Oxford were exhausted by their failed effort to bump Cambridge at Hammersmith and almost inevitably they fell behind, one length down, then two, then three…
Oxford passing the Old Ship at Hammersmith.
Just over the half-way point, passing Chiswick Eyot with Chiswick Church in the background. The Chiswick Steps time for Cambridge was 12 min 43 secs with Oxford +3.10 secs.
Surprisingly, Cambridge coach, Paddy Ryan, did not look over-confident.
Cambridge reached Barnes Bridge in 16 min 54 secs.
Approaching the former Mortlake Brewery and the finish line.
Cambridge approached the finish post 4.5 lengths ahead.
Celebrations for Cambridge’s sixth win in a row, this one in 20 mins 29 secs, 12 seconds ahead of Oxford.
It was a good performance from one of the best Oxford crews in a while.

The Men’s Race

The race comes into sight for those on Chiswick Bridge.
Cambridge looked very sharp, but Oxford was clearly suffering on stroke/port side as stroke man Felix Drinkall neared exhaustion. After the race, both Drinkall and “2” man, Alex Bebb, were taken to hospital for tests.
The finish flag goes down and Cambridge cox, Jasper Parish, goes up. Parish’s bold steering move at the start of the race, when he moved to the flatter but slower water on the Fulham side, is widely credited with assuring Cambridge’s victory. Oxford made the same move in the 1987 race, and this produced the same reaction by the opposition (hesitation before also moving to Middlesex) and the same victorious result for the innovator. 
Jasper Parish, having stepped over stroke man Luca Ferraro, hugs his brother and “7” man, Ollie.
Jasper Parish acknowledges the cheers from Chiswick Bridge. The impression given is that he came up “there and then” with his dramatic steering move at the start. However, I find it difficult to imagine that he had not talked to coach Rob Baker about the possibility of making such a manoeuvre before he went afloat.  
The in-boat celebrations continue as Cambridge’s boat drifts under Chiswick Bridge. Jasper Parish now joins Matthew Holland as the only two people to have successfully coxed both men’s and women’s Blue boats.
There was a different story in the Oxford boat as assistance was rushed to the collapsed Felix Drinkall.

Oxford: James Forward, Alex Bebb, Freddy Orpin, Tom Sharrock, James Doran, Jean-Philippe Dufour, Tassilo von Mueller, Felix Drinkall, Anna O’Hanlon (cox).

Stroke man Luca Ferraro uses the cox’s microphone to talk to his crew. The men’s race had no Olympians and seven undergraduates, including Ferraro. He has done exceptionally well to move from the bow seat of last year’s losing boat to the stroke seat of this year’s winning boat.

Cambridge: Matt Edge Brett Taylor, Noam Mouelle, Seb Benzecry, Thomas Lynch, Nick Mayhew, Ollie Parish, Luca Ferraro, Jasper Parish (cox).

Tomorrow: Fun (for some) back on dry land at Mortlake.

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