In the certain knowledge that a coach wants evenly-matched crews for a good trial, this year’s Cambridge squad decided to name their crews ‘She Sells’ and ‘Sea Shells’ – a similarity which almost got the better of umpire Richard Phelps, who used his prerogative by naming them ‘Sea’ and ‘Sells’.
Not that his input was called upon unduly in this closely matched contest on the flood tide, until the Surrey crew, with Cambridge president Steve Dudek on board, struck the marker buoy at the Crossing and the race was effectively over.
‘Sea Shells’, with Dudek at 5 and the veteran Mike Thorp in the 6 seat, won the toss and chose the Surrey station. That left the early advantage on Middlesex to ‘She Sells’, a crew that included the first Austrians ever to represent Cambridge, in the form of Florian Herbst and the international U23 sculler Alexander Leichter.
‘Sea Shells’ went off at 43, a pip higher than the opposition, but it was ‘She Sells’ who eked out a slight advantage past the boathouses and maintained the lead all the way to Barn Elms. As both crews were warned in turn for their steering American stroke Luke Juckett took ‘Sea Shells’ up a notch to take a canvas lead past Harrods.
As the Surrey bend now began to work in their favour ‘Sea Shells’, cheered on by members of the Cambridge women’s squad on Hammersmith Bridge, increased their lead to two thirds of a length but the crews now began to feel the full force of the stiff south-westerly breeze.
‘She Sells’ on Middlesex seemed to cope better with the rougher conditions while Dudek’s crew lost a little of their rhythm. But they recovered past Chiswick Steps, and were drawing level once again, when Ian Middleton, the ‘Sea Shells’ cox, unfortunately failed to spot the obstacle in his path until it was too late, and the marker buoy hit the stroke side riggers of his crew, who immediately lost half a length.
Approaching Barnes Bridge ‘She Sells’ were able to cross into their opponents water and take the rate down to 29 while the losing crew maintained their rate at 31. Both crews upped the rate approaching the finish but ‘She Sells’ now had a comfortable lead, crossing the line to win by just over 3 1.2 lengths.
“Both crews have different strengths and weaknesses and we focussed a lot on developing the strengths” said Cambridge chief coach Steve Trapmore afterwards.
“I was pleased with the way the race went” said umpire Richard Phelps, who will take charge of his first Boat Race next year.
“Both crews responded quickly to my warnings, but we were off the race line at one or two points so there’s still some work to be done there.”