2016 Boat Races round-up
The Cancer Research UK Boat Races
Sunday 27 March saw the Cambridge men’s and women's crews on the Tideway for the Cancer Research UK Boat Races. Crowds lined the banks despite the changeable weather and alumni watched in various levels of comfort by the water, in venues along the route and at gatherings around the world from Canada to Zambia.
Moored close to the start of the races at Putney Pier was the PS Elizabethan, a replica Mississippi stern-wheeled paddle steamer, hosting over 120 Cambridge alumni and guests. Before the races started those on board were addressed by John Pritchard (Robinson 1983), the new Chair of the Alumni Advisory Board and an experienced rower.
John competed in the 1980 Summer Olympics and won a silver medal, winning again in the 1984 Summer Olympics. He also rowed for Cambridge in 1984/5 and was one of the crew in 1986 when Cambridge denied Oxford the Ladbrokes trophy outright by breaking Oxford's run of nine consecutive wins.
John said: "The Boat Races on Sunday marked my first formal alumni event as Chairman of the AAB. As someone steeped in the history and tradition of the races, this was the easiest of introductions to the rigours of the office! The alumni who gathered, many of whom brought family members, appeared to thoroughly enjoy the day and the extraordinary spectacle of watching the four races with a crowd of approximately 250,000 on the banks. It was a great privilege to watch the start of these races from a distance of maybe 50 metres, making all of us feel very close to the action."
"Whilst it was wonderful to watch the success of the men in the main race and the Blondie crew in the women’s reserve race, without question the highlight of the day for me was the performance of the women’s first crew. They battled with extraordinary courage through unbelievably testing conditions and stuck resolutely together and to their task, continuing to chase and harry the faster Oxford crew even when in distinct peril of sinking beneath standing waves. On they pushed, never relenting and ignoring the offer of help from the umpires' launch. They were going to finish this race whatever the outcome. I was filled with pride that these women represented me and my university. If anyone ever asks you why sport matters, ask them to look at the footage of that race and it will tell you all you need to know about courage, discipline, tenacity and collective effort. I hope some of these women are back next year…”
If anyone ever asks you why sport matters, ask them to look at the footage of that race and it will tell you all you need to know about courage, discipline, tenacity and collective effort.
Cambridge’s crew were the taller and heavier, also boasting significant experience, both in previous Boat Races and at international level, and it saw the men's crew to a decisive vistory. Light Blue rower Piers Kasas (Trinity, Chemical Engineering) was the youngest member of both crews at 19 years, 6 months old. Goldie, Cambridge’s men’s reserves, were defeated by Oxford’s Isis by two lengths despite achieving a higher stroke rate than the Oxford crew several times.
The weather continued to ensure choppy conditions for the Blue Boats’ races with the women battling a sinking boat. By Barnes Bridge, their hull was almost entirely underwater. Thereafter the dominant Oxford crew rowed to victory, crossing the line over a minute before the Light Blues. However, despite the testing conditions, the Cambridge women remained determined and crossed the finish line.
There was more success for Cambridge in the women's reserves race, as the Blondie crew displayed courage and perserverance to beat Osiris by three and a half lengths.
Continuing a tradition dating from 1829
Official umpire for the first time in this, the 162nd year of the Boat Race, was Cambridge alumnus (and umpire of The 2015 Newton Women's Boat Race) Simon Harris. The 71st women's Boat Race saw Oxford alumnus Rob Clegg take the reins, assisted by John Garrett, umpire of the controversial 2012 men's race. Umpiring remains an evolving part of the Boat Races' rules, with a new panel introduced following the decision to stop and re-start the race after disruption by a protester in 2012.
In the centenary year of the outbreak of the first world war, an exhibition at the Museum of London included photographs of the 1914 Boat Race crews, many of whom died in action. The photographs – part of a collection of work by Britain's first female press photographer, Christina Broom – and the fates of the crew members can be found online in The Independent and on the Museum’s blog.
After a mixture of exciting and highly contested races, Cambridge remain in front of Oxford with 82 overall victories against Oxford's 79 in the men's race, with Cambridge leading on 41 wins to 30 in the women's.
Henley Boat Races
An exciting weekend at Henley-on-Thames saw both the lightweight crews engaging in a highly contested battle of blades. After an excellent start, the men's Lightweight team picked up a rhythmic and speedy pace, attaining an unassailable lead within the first three minutes of the race. The women's lightweight team battled against a feisty north-easterly and strong stream, with large waves crashing against the hull. After both teams started well, the Light Blues were able to pull away early, achieving a lead of a third of a length by the end of the enclosures. However, the violent waters tested the Light Blues as they fell behind by Temple Island. A perseverant Oxford took the title.
Men's lightweights: Cambridge won by two and a three quarter lengths in 6m 19s, achieving a stroke rate of 41.
Women's lightweights: Oxford won by a third of a length in 6m 54s, achieving a stroke rate of 36.
Women's reserves: Cambridge won by three quarters of a length in just over nine minutes.
Jesus College Cambridge rowed to a clear victory against Christ Church Oxford in the Women's race
Pembroke College (Oxford) beat Gonville and Caius College (Cambridge) in a tightly contested Men's race.
For the first time, alumni took to the river in Henley and the Cambridge women marked it in style, as they stormed to a decisive Light Blue victory.
See henleyboatraces.com for more details.