The 2017 Boat Race

The weeks leading up to the Boat Race are a blur: crew selection – Wimbleball training camp – finishing touches in Wallingford, and then before we knew it we were in Henley: 8 rowers, 1 cox and the reserve pair. We spent a successful week adjusting to the strong headwind the Henley course had thrown at us, leading to some adjustments to rowing technique to cope with the rougher waters. Armed with our new Resolute, newly named ‘Inverbroom’, we ended the week with quiet confidence and determination.

BR2017-1

When Boat Race morning arrived, there was a feeling of readiness – we had done all we could up to this point, now it all came down to getting the final job done. The course greeted us with slightly kinder conditions than we had spent the week preparing for, with the wind slowing to a slightly weaker cross-head wind.

The morning went by quickly and suddenly the race was upon us: hands on – past the crowds – boat on the water – “pushing off on three, ready: one, two, three”… After a solid warm up, with some good confidence-boosting bursts and starts we felt ready to go. We were aware that Cambridge had a strong line up, but we were so focused and internalised it didn’t cross our minds that we might lose this race. Both crews attached to the stake boats quickly, but getting (and remaining) straight was a struggle in the crosswind, which had picked up throughout the day. I heard the Cambridge cox, repeatedly: “my hand is down”, just as my own bows swung around in the wind. As I was straight, I heard the Cambridge cox: “my hand is up”. We finally synchronised and the umpire quickly called the start: there was no time to think.

BR2017-2

We produced a solid start and went off the stake boat cleanly through the waves. Cambridge’s start was simply stronger and they pulled ahead. I called an ‘absorb’ move to hold strong coming off the start, but not one eye strayed from our boat; we all had confidence in each other. Between the 500m mark and the Remenham club, Cambridge’s clean, composed rowing extended their lead when we came past our supporters at Upper Thames. We stuck to the race plan and I called our focus on sharp catches approaching Upper Thames, and combined with the effect of the support from the Oxford crowd we finally found our rhythm and started to move. Cambridge were now well ahead and it was at this stage coming up to halfway that I knew we had to do something special to narrow the margin. Rather than a power push, I called our wind for the finish early: the rowers knew this could happen at any stage in the race and I was so proud of the response they gave. We took the rate up three and started to narrow the margin for the first time. We knew we were behind, but not once did I see or feel anyone in the boat give up and it was amazing to find our rhythm and lock onto it. This transition, coupled to a final successful wind into the finish at 500m to go saw us narrow the margin to three lengths at the finish.

BR2017-3

It would be so easy to judge the success of this year on the margin of this loss and reflect on what we could have done better as a crew and as a squad to change the outcome. There was a lot to be learned from this race, but although it is hard to admit, Cambridge simply put out a better crew of 9 people and rowed the better race. They deserved this year’s win, and I commend the race they produced. Regardless of the outcome, for any athlete to juggle training for a Boat Race with a full academic schedule is something to be admired, and I am in awe of my rowers every erg test and training session they put themselves through, for months on end, coming back year on year. Yes, we lost the boat race and that hurts, but we have also come so far as a crew. I can honestly say I have never experienced such camaraderie, determination, and complete commitment to each other and a mutual goal, and I am so proud to have been part of this group of amazing athletes.

2017 Blue Boat

B Hannah Patel
2 Lucy Cross
3 Livia Dewaele
4 Rachel Anderson
5 Danielle Edmunds
6 Joanna Heymann
7 Moyo Tian
S Laure Bonfils
C Cecilia Karlsson

— Report by Cecilia Karlsson

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