Cambridge’s veterans notched up their thirteenth win in the annual Veteran’s Boat Race on Saturday, rowing through Oxford in a brilliant contest over the two miles from Putney to Hammersmith, before the two crews paddled all the way to Chiswick to give the BBC a chance to test their camera angles.
The line-ups were stellar, Cambridge boasting five Olympians and Oxford three, but with an average age of over 42 and limited time to practise together before the Race. Coxes Katie Apfelbaum (Oxford) and Sarah Smart (Cambridge), the only crew-members exempted from the minimum age requirement of 36, had met before in 2012, when Katie beat Sarah in the Isis/Goldie Race. Oxford stroke Barney Williams won the toss and chose Middlesex, banking on an early advantage for his crew against the defending champions.
Under dull skies but with little wind, Umpire Simon Harris had the two crews lined up for a floating start and got them away cleanly first time just after the University Stone. With perhaps a few inches advantage as they drifted, Williams and his crew seized an immediate lead of two seats and dashed off at 37 strokes a minute. But Cambridge, stroked by German Olympian Marc Weber, were not far behind, rating 36 and intent on keeping them in check.
Along the boathouses Oxford’s marginally better stride saw them take a half-length lead while Cambridge were warned for steering, and the Dark Blues steadily edged out to seven seats along the Embankment railings at a feisty rate 36.5. At Craven Cottage the fight turned a little fiestier, and there was clash in which Oxford gained more than a third of a length, the blades overlapping for several strokes while Smart nearly wore the umpire’s voice out with repeated warnings not to push too far to Middlesex.
But the Race was about to turn: with Oxford beginning to look a little tired and ragged, Cambridge pushed to claw back some distance, and the two eights shot the Milepost only a couple of seats apart. Cambridge had a beautiful rhythm, long and smooth, reminiscent of their 1990s crews at their best, but were suffering a little from position on the stream. Suddenly the Light Blues slipped onto the Surrey station proper, and saw the effects at once, moving out rapidly from 2 seats down to 4 seats up while Oxford could do nothing to stop them. The Race had turned in Cambridge’s favour and with their bend beginning they held all the cards.
From there on it was Cambridge’s race to lose. The last nail in Oxford’s coffin came before Harrods, 2-man Donald Macdonald briefly being put off his stroke by catching a piece of lumpy water, and Cambridge taking full advantage to move out further. By Hammersmith Bridge they had clear water, and at the finish of Furnivall Steps despite a desperate and brave Oxford sprint it was a Light Blue victory for the third year running.
Milepost Oxford 3-55, Cambridge 3-56
Hammersmith Bridge Cambridge 6-59, Oxford 7-03
Finish Cambridge 7-30, Oxford 7-35 (adjudged 1.25L)
Cambridge veteran crew:
Bow: Tom Middleton
2: Lukas Hirst
3: Paul Wright
4: Kieran West
5: Guy Pooley
6: Dave Gillard
7: Sebastian Schulte
Stroke: Marc Weber
Cox: Sarah Smart
Oxford veteran crew:
Bow: Nick Holland
2: Donald Macdonald
3: Kingsley Poole
4: Andrew Landon-Green
5: Roberto Blanda
6: Toby Ayer
7: Gerritjan Eggenkamp
Stroke: Barney Williams
Cox: Katie Apfelbaum
With thanks to Sean Gorvy for organising the race, and all involved.
Report by Rachel Quarrell
Image courtesy of Paul Azzopardi – BigBlade Photography