The OUBC Blue Boat today took on Oxford Brookes in their first official fixture ahead of next month’s Cancer Research UK Boat Race. After a slightly delayed start, the fixture took place over two pieces from the start to St Paul’s School and then from the start of the Eyot to the finish. Oxford Brookes won the toss and elected to row on Middlesex.
Through the start sequence, Oxford took the first few strokes more quickly, but Brookes gained the slight advantage was the race moved past the boathouses. The crews went stroke-for-stroke past the Town Buoy with Oxford drawing level.
It was only as the river moved to Middlesex that Brookes managed to move ahead, gaining a lead of around a length. The wind had picked up at the milepost, with Oxford moving better into the headwind and making their way back into the piece. At Harrods, Oxford were looking to be moving better, working their way back to level and perhaps having a slight edge once the past Hammersmith Bridge. In the final wind for the line, Oxford took a light line to the Surrey side, possibly missing out on the best of the stream. Nonetheless, Brookes quickly moved up from level with Oxford to win the first piece by almost a length.
The second piece, from the Eyot to the finish, began with warnings from Umpire John Garrett and clashes of blades. Brookes came out the better and were leading by a length as the crews hit race rhythm. As the river moved around to Surrey, Brookes managed to hold their advantage despite Oxford’s efforts with the wind behind and river moving to Oxford’s advantage. Coach Sean Bowden, vocal throughout the fixture, encouraged his crew to stay with Brookes as they made their pushes to neutralise the Oxford threat.
Despite the river moving to Middlesex and to Brookes’ advantage once under Barnes Bridge, they couldn’t break the Oxford resistance and lead by just under a length around the bend. With the finish line in sight, Oxford began to make their move to take the piece, slowly eating into the advantage that Brookes had held for several minutes around the bend. Once Oxford had got back to 2/3 length deficit, Brookes began to push for the line themselves to try and make it two wins from two. With their final effort and after the sustained effort on the outside of the bend by Oxford, Brookes managed to break out to a little over a length to win.
Although we might hope for warmer conditions on race-day, conditions were typical for this time of year and made for a stern test of the crews. Both crews were visibly exhausted by their efforts. Oxford now have a month to add the finishing touches to their crew ahead of The Cancer Research Boat Race on March 24th 2018.