The Championship Course whipped up a stern test for the Newton Women’s Boat Race Trial Eights today as both clubs continued their progress towards April 11th in this landmark season.
Clear and calm conditions greeted the crews in Putney for the warm-up and start, but strong winds along the Eyot and through Barnes Bridge to the finish made for challenging racing.
The Oxford University Women’s Boat Club raced first at 13:15, ‘Fantasy’ winning the toss and choosing the Surrey Station in their battle against ‘Real Life’. Fantasy included President Anastasia Chitty, and Blues Alice Carrington-Windo and Amber DeVere, along with St. Paul’s Girl’s and Tideway cox Jennifer Ehr. Three Blues featured in Real Life, including Maxie Scheske (President 2014), Nadine Gradel Iberg and Lauren Kedar at stroke.
The crews span and met under Putney Bridge to begin the race. Real Life were quicker through the first few strokes without sacrificing boat acceleration, taking an early edge as the crews moved past the Boathouses. Fantasy held their rhythm however, keeping the margin at around three seats through to the Town Buoy where the course takes its first bend towards Middlesex. Real Life used this bend to their advantage, moving out to almost a length but unable to gain enough ground to take the centre of the stream. Jennifer Ehr, cox of Fantasy held a strong line on the best of the stream as Ayesha Rasheed in the Middlesex crew took a much tighter line leaving a good distance between the crews.
Approaching Harrods the crews were still moving stroke-for-stroke. Real Life began to take the bend and were warned by Umpire Simon Harris with the crews then moving under Hammersmith Bridge. The Surrey Bend brought Fantasy back to within a few seats, but Real Life held on strongly around the outside of the Surrey Bend to maintain their slight advantage of half a length.
The margin stayed constant past the Eyot where the conditions began to turn with a firm headwind picking up against the crews. With the headwind, Real Life began to extend their advantage. It was past the Bandstand before the first sight of open water was seen between the crews as Real Life began to take control of a tightly fought contest. With the upcoming bend at Barnes Bridge to Middlesex’s favour, Real Life look set to move on to victory. By Barnes Bridge there was a length of open water advantage to Real Life who struggled to shake off their squad teammates. With the push for the finish, Fantasy couldn’t maintain the pace and were defeated by 3 lengths.
The second of the races saw Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club’s Trial Eights race, with crews named ‘Rise’ and ‘Grind’. Rise won the toss and elected to row on the Surrey Station. Rise included U23 internationals Fanny Belais and Daphne Martschenko in the stern pair, with President Caroline Reid at 6, and Blue Isabella Vyvyan at 4. Grind included Blues Catherine Foot, Claire Watkins and Melissa Wilson and four members of last year’s Blondie crew.
After a short delay aligning the crews, Rise moved ahead quickly off the start, slower through the rates than Grind but laying down a huge amount of power and taking half a length inside the first 20 strokes. Grind maintained their slightly higher stroke rate, but Rise extended their margin over the Middlesex crew to two-thirds of a length by the Town Buoy. At Fulham Football Club the lead became a length.
As the race progressed, a confident and composed Rise crew moved out to a length and a half, pushing away from their opposition to take increasing control of the race. The lead slowly but steadily grew as Rise’s race-rhythm proved more effective: the lead was 2 lengths at Hammersmith Bridge and 3 lengths by Chiswick Steps. The headwind proved to be much stronger for Cambridge’s race, stifling the progress made by Rise over Grind and making for thoroughly challenging conditions as the crews passed the Bandstand and headed towards Barnes Bridge. The wind eased slightly after Barnes, but by this stage the damage was done, with Rise holding a commanding lead over Grind. Belais and Martschenko in the stern of Rise set down a stubborn and strong rhythm that was set to last the length of the Championship Course and eventually won by over 5 lengths.
The Newton Women’s Boat Race Trial Eights proved a true insight into the best the Championship Course has to offer, with the crews demonstrating themselves to be more than a match for some difficult and testing conditions. The squads will now re-gather ahead of their next training phase and the Christmas break, which will be followed by training camps in more temperate areas of Europe.