Almost a month to the day after their Light Blue rivals conducted their race on the Tideway, it was the turn of Oxford to assess their own preparations during their Trial VIIIs race. Postponed from December due to illness, the Dark Blues boated two international crews boasting a mixture of experience and fresh faces.
Named Persistent and Stubborn in memory of the legendary late Harvard coach Harry Parker, who had coached three of today’s participants the crews produced a highly competitive contest in an effort to prove who has the credentials to become a Blue.
Breaking with tradition, due to a very slack and late turning tide Oxford Head Coach Sean Bowden decided to start the race at Wandsworth Pier, with the finish at Chiswick Steps a distance close to that of the Championship Course but passing some unfamiliar landmarks in the early stages.
Persistent containing President Malcolm Howard and a stern pair plus cox returning from Isis winning crews won the toss and chose the Surrey station, a decision which was to prove important during the second half of the race.
In bright sunshine with only a light breeze to disturb the flat water it was the President’s crew who pulled away in the first minute. Rating 43 compared to Stubborn’s 47 off the start the crews stayed level for the first 20 strokes before Persistent edged out to a ¼ length lead at Putney Railway Bridge.
Olympic bronze medallist Constantine Louloudis in the stroke seat of Stubborn showed no signs of cracking however, as he settled his crew at 35 strokes per minute and began to eat back into Persistent’s advantage.
By the Putney boathouses the crews were level once more but now Stubborn had the momentum, still at 35 compared to Persistent’s 34. Stubborn, on the Middlesex station, were therefore able to take the lead by the Town Buoy, and by Barn Elms they enjoyed a ¼ length lead of their own, which they had extended to ¾ length at the Mile Post.
Stubborn couldn’t shake off their opponents however and as the bend started to unfold in Persistent’s favour their lead was reeled in by a confident looking crew. By Harrods the lead was only ½ length and at Hammersmith Bridge Persistent, driven on by last year’s winning Isis cox Laurence Harvey, had a very slight advantage of their own.
Rating 34 to Stubborn’s 32 it was Persistent who took the race on from here, living up to their name they crept away to a lead of ½ length passing the Ship Public House. They had extended this to 1 length by the top of Chiswick Eyot and although Stubborn continued to push hard, it was too late as the finish was now in sight.
At Chiswick Steps where Bowden called for the crews to wind-down Persistent’s lead was 1 ½ lengths.
Following the race Bowden expressed his pleasure at the competitive nature of the race saying, “It shows the value of power, having strong people racing well. Given how difficult conditions have been with the flooding since training camp I think we had a good performance as a team.”