The Oxford University Women’s Boat Club raced Molesey today in the final official pre-Boat Race fixture for 2017.
Oxford won the toss and chose the Surrey station for the two pieces, firstly from the start to the end of Chiswick Eyot and then from the Bandstand to the finish. There was a strong westerly breeze with gusts picking up water as the tide came in, creating some challenging conditions especially on the western side of Barnes Bridge.
The first piece started in some choppy water with both crews getting clean starts and being warned early. The race was past the Embankment before either crew managed to gain an advantage, when Molesey began to move slightly and take a few seats as the river moved to Middlesex. Umpire Sarah Winckless was kept busy keeping the crews apart as they fought for the best of the stream, Oxford pushing to get back on terms by the Milepost as the crews were in flatter water. Oxford made the most use of the relatively calm conditions to build a lead of their own and quickly went out to a half length lead and then on to a full length by Harrods. As the crews moved under Hammersmith Bridge, Oxford were nearly two lengths up and looking to push on, but the wind began to pick up again and halted their progress. Molesey held the margin well in the rough water and on the outside of the bend, but as the river straightened out the wind picked up even further. Oxford pushed on after the lengthy Molesey effort to extend their lead and win the first piece by three lengths – and looked ready to push on and take more.
The second piece from the Bandstand to the finish was from a rolling start, but this time Molesey managed to gain a few seats and gather the early momentum. With the river always moving in their favour, they captured early control of the race as the wind began to pick up once more. Oxford weren’t shaken and were within half a length at Barnes Bridge when the worst of the weather hit the crews for a period of around a minute. Molesey maintained their rhythm into this period better than Oxford and gained a lead of one length quickly. Once the race had moved through the series of gusts, Molesey had their length lead and still had a good section of the Middlesex bend to come. They started to try and increase their lead, but Oxford continued to push to get themselves back into the race. In the final efforts for the finish Molesey reached the line having only conceded a few seats and having won by a little under a full length.
Honours were split evenly with both crews able to capitalise on their opponent’s difficulties. Whilst conditions were tough, they were not beyond the balance of probabilities for Race Day with the main event less than two weeks away.