Cambridge and Oxford’s women lined up on the Tideway for only the second time in varsity history this afternoon, as the recently rebranded Cancer Research UK Boat Races took place. Oxford, led by President Maddy Badcott, drew the Surrey station whilst Hannah Robert’s Cambridge lined up on Middlesex.
Off the start, both crews strayed into the middle as Cambridge stole the slightest of advantages. This was quickly checked by Oxford, who were touted as pre-Race favourites with three returners from last year’s winning crew. Passing Barn Elms boathouse, the crews were effectively level. Both boats appeared to be dealing well with the pressure of the occasion, laying down strong rhythms which swept them around the Fulham bend. At the Mile-Post, Oxford had stretched out a little to lead by a few seats as the first timing marker fell.
The two crews stayed their lines well approaching Harrods Repository but Oxford were working an advantage through every stroke, moving out to nearly a length. Cambridge clung on as the crews passed underneath Hammersmith Bridge, with cox Rosemary Ostfeld trying to minimise the beginnings of the Surrey bend. To their credit, the Light Blues maintained an overlap as the boats moved past St Paul’s boathouse as Oxford struggled to get away.
As predicted, the conditions worsened significantly towards the half way mark of the Championship Course. On the Middlesex station, Cambridge were presented with the worst of the water and slipped back to a length behind the Dark Blues. Both crews slewed across the Thames in an attempt to find the calmest water, but failed to find much leeway as Oxford maintained a lead of just over a length. It was the latter who finally appeared to adapt, stretching their advantage to eight seconds as Cambridge stagnated in the rough conditions.
As the Surrey bend ran its course, it was Oxford who emerged as clear leaders. Dark Blue cox Morgan Baynham Williams made the brave decision to head for shelter, cutting across the stream towards the Middlesex bank; a breath-taking coxing manoeuvre which paid dividends as Oxford regained their rhythm to draw away from Cambridge.
The Light Blues, stroked by Zara Goozee, looked in serious trouble as they wound their way to Barnes Bridge, passing underneath the landmark with their hull barely visible. Umpire Rob Clegg red-flagged the Race, but cox Ostfeld implored her crew to finish regardless. To their great credit, Cambridge continued to battle through although Oxford’s lead was unassailable by this stage. Indeed, the latter continued to row away towards a decidedly Dark Blue horizon, crossing the line over a minute ahead of their Cambridge counterparts to win The 2016 Cancer Research UK Women’s Boat Race.