Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club opened their competitive account for the year against a strong Oxford Brookes crew, in the first women’s fixture of The 2016 Cancer Research UK Boat Race season.
Under a stormy sky and variable conditions, it was Cambridge who drew the Surrey station for the first of two pieces. Off the start the light blues, coxed by returning Blue Rosemary Ostfeld, were caught out a little by a combination of speed from Oxford Brookes and a slight decrease in the quality of the weather conditions. Brookes took a couple of seats off the start and maintained this right the way along the Putney embankment. Throughout the opening exchanges, the crews both veered off towards Middlesex, avoiding the fastest section of the river. By Fulham Football ground, Brookes had a third of a length on their light blue counterparts; they looked to have a more fluid and dynamic rhythm in the rougher water. As the two boats edged around the final section of the first bend, Cambridge had checked the Brookes move and were starting to move back. As the water flattened out past the Mile Post, it was Ostfeld’s crew who looked to have the momentum; they had regained parity as the crews approached Harrods Repository. It proved to be a decisive move from Cambridge as they then began to stretch away from Brookes, whose decision to front-load the piece was beginning to prove costly. Cambridge continued to increase their lead, finishing underneath Hammersmith Bridge a length clear of their opponents.
The second piece began at the end of the Chiswick Eyot, with Brookes on the Surrey station. Moving out the blocks, it was hard to call a margin after the first twenty strokes as both crews battled for supremacy. Cambridge were steering a fairly aggressive line, in an attempt to minimise Brooke’s advantage on the inside. Umpire John Garrett was called into action considerably more in the second piece, as both boats veered towards each other approaching the bandstand. Despite this, there was still only a seat between Cambridge and Brookes. In contrast to the first race, it was the light blues who fared better in the choppy water past the bandstand as they began to take a hold of the race. Coming past Emanuel boathouse, Cambridge had a half-length lead over Brookes, who looked a little fatigued. As Cambridge attempted to draw clear under Barnes Bridge, the two crews clashed; the incident appeared to affect Brookes a little more, as Cambridge drew further away and had clear water ten strokes later. A short while later a boat-stopping crab put paid to any hope of a Brookes comeback, and Cambridge won the second and final piece by around three lengths.
After a good opening victory, Cambridge will return to face further opposition in the coming weeks. The Cancer Research UK Boat Races will take place on March 27th 2016. The women will race at 3:10pm whilst the men will race an hour later at 4:10pm.