Cambridge raced an experienced Leander Club crew over three pieces on the Tideway this afternoon.
Leander Club fielded a crew full of international experience in the second of the official fixtures hosted by Cambridge on the Tideway this afternoon. Boasting two Olympic bronze medallists from London 2012 in Matt Langridge and Rick Egington plus a host of U23 internationals and Henley winners; despite having only a week together, Leander on paper looked an exciting prospect.
The light blues have shuffled their order considerably since the last fixture, when they were bested by University of Washington two weeks ago. Returning Blue Niles Garrett is now in the stroke seat, while President and London 2012 bronze winner George Nash has moved back from 7 to 5. In fact while all the members of the crew remain the same, not one of them, saving cox Henry Fieldman, is in the seat he occupied against the Huskies.
Cambridge chose the Middlesex station in the first of three pieces the crews raced, this one from the start to St. Paul’s. Leander got away slightly quicker and took an early lead which they maintained going past the Black Buoy. However Leander cox Katie Apflebaum (who coxed Isis last year and was until recently in contention for the Oxford Blue Boat), was being constantly warned by umpire Boris Rankov as she steered a tight course looking to push Cambridge wide.
Coming towards Barn Elms and with the advantage of the Middlesex bend Cambridge now settled into a good flowing rhythm at 35 strokes a minute, reeling in the men in cerise to take a ¼ length lead themselves; a lead which was extended to a length by the Mile Post and over two at Hammersmith Bridge.
As the wind increased around the Surrey bend under the bridge, Leander began to show their lack of time in the boat together as the chop on the water increased exposing some ragged blade work. The light blue crew, looking calm made a better job of handling the conditions and continued to power away to a 4 length victory at St. Paul’s School boathouse.
The second piece of work was a race between Harrods Depository and the Bandstand, in which Cambridge still on Middlesex started ¾ length behind their rivals. Both crews struggled with the rough water from the start and onto the Hammersmith stretch, but Cambridge striking 40 off the start didn’t allow Leander to get away this time and by St. Paul’s were back on level terms.
Leander were again warned repeatedly for their steering, but Cambridge were not without fault receiving a number of their own warnings, causing experienced Tideway cox Fieldman to move sharply towards his own station passing Chiswick Eyot, where they led by 1 length. Leander at 34 looked determined and held on to Cambridge at 33 but at Chiswick Steps their challenge and their bladework faded as they failed to get back on terms. With the water now calm Cambridge consolidated their lead just as they had in the first piece, again winning by 4 lengths.
In the final piece of the afternoon the crews swapped stations. Starting shortly before the Bandstand, with Leander a quarter of a length ahead at the start this was the biggest test for the light blues. Cambridge went off the start at 42 before hitting their rhythm at 36. Leander maintained their advantage for the first minute of the race, with Langridge at stroke over rating Cambridge by a couple of pips.
The cohesion in the Cambridge boat was to be decisive though. Coming around the outside of the Middlesex bend Garrett slowly pushed past the rougher looking Leander crew to take a ¼ length lead at Barnes Bridge. More warnings were ringing in the ears of Apflebaum passing Thames Tradesmen’s Rowing Club but she could only look on as Cambridge drew out to a length.
In the final stages of the race Leander upped their rate to 39 to pull a ¼ length back forcing Cambridge to increase their own rate of striking. However Cambridge’s victory never looked in doubt and at the finishing post they still had a ¾ length advantage.