The probable Oxford Blue Boat took on Molesey Boat Club in two races on Sunday afternoon.
Molesey traditionally one of the countries strongest club crews had a number of Henley winners on board, including former Cambridge Blue Fred Gill, Oxford meanwhile boated the same line-up that raced University of London two weeks previously. Canadian double Olympic medallist Malcolm Howard was in the stroke seat with Britain’s London 2012 bronze medal winner and returning Blue Constantine Louloudis behind him at 7. Two more Blues, Karl Hudspith looking forward to his 3rdrace and Alex Davidson this year’s President, have also made the cut.
The first of two pieces, with Oxford on the Surrey station in calm conditions, was raced from the start at Putney to Chiswick Eyot. The sharp looking dark blues set off at 46 strokes a minute, compared to Molesey’s 41 with Howard quickly applying the pressure to pull his men out to a ¼ length lead passing the Putney boathouses, which was extended to a length by the Town Buoy.
Molesey did their best to stay in touch but umpire Matthew Pinsent had to warn them for their steering before the Mile Post and with Oxford now settled at 34 their challenge faded. By Harrods Depository Oxford had extended their lead to 4 lengths and the only remaining excitement was when two sailing boats crossed in front of the approaching flotilla close to St. Paul’s.
Oxford continued to move away from the men in black and at the Chiswick Eyot finish had an advantage of 6 lengths.
In the second race from Chiswick Eyot to the finishing post at Mortlake, Molesey were given a 1 ½ length lead at the start, which they held for the first minute of the piece. Oxford settled at a higher tempo than previously, rating 38 in their attempt to make up the advantage. By Chiswick Steps Molesey’s lead had been reduced to 1 length and at the crossing the crews were level.
The dark blue’s then showed their steel in perfect water to take the lead around the outside of the Surrey bend. Matching Molesey’s rating of 36 Oxford’s extra power and fitness took them out to a lead of ¾ length at Barnes Bridge. Molesey then suffered a small bow side shipwreck as cox Hannah Clews came close to clashing with the Oxford blades.
Oxford took full advantage and continued to power away to the finishing post, still at 36 to win by 2 ½ lengths.