The Cambridge University Boat Club Blue Boat, only formally announced on Thursday, took to the Tideway this afternoon in a fixture as part of their final preparations for The 2015 BNY Mellon Boat Race.
Cambridge invited the Netherlands Eight to London to give them a stern test with the Race now three weeks away. The Eight is the priority boat for the Dutch National Team this year and so includes athletes with a wealth of international experience that will go on to compete at this year’s World Championships in Aiguebelette, France.
The fixture was to take the form of two pieces, first of which would be from The Boat Race start at the University Stone to St Paul’s School slipway. The second was to be from the halfway point on The Championship Course to just short of The Boat Race finish, given the closure to Chiswick Bridge. The Netherlands won the toss and chose the Middlesex station, giving them two good sections of advantage given the way the fixture separated the course.
Starting ten minutes earlier than scheduled, the crews aligned coming under Putney Bridge calm but cool conditions. Umpire Matthew Pinsent got the race underway quickly and the Netherlands moved through the first few strokes quickly to steal an early advantage. As the crews went past the boathouses, the Netherlands has extended their lead to over half a length, but an untroubled Cambridge crew halted their advance by the Town Buoy. Cambridge settled into a strong rhythm to wear the Dutch crew down, with their stroke Henry Hoffstot (now in a stern pair combination with Ben Ruble) always a beat or two higher than his Dutch counterpart, Robert Lucken.
Around the outside of the first Middlesex bend, Cambridge began to work back against the deficit despite their disadvantage, taking seats to draw level by the time the race had passed Fulham Football Club. Pinsent here was forced to stop the race at short notice, with a small sailing boat unable to clear itself from the racing line. At the time the race stopped the crews were level with Cambridge looking set to move on and take full control of the race.
The crews were restarted before the milepost without spinning, as the closed Thames Barrier prevented the crews being washed inland. With the restart, Cambridge held on to a tighter margin through the start and despite having less overall force than the Dutch crew, made better use of their available power to end the start sequence marginally down. They quickly settled into their racing rhythm and began to move away to a half length lead within 90 seconds. The lead got progressively larger as the Dutch crew struggled in the now strong headwind, with Cambridge 2.5 lengths ahead when the crews reached Harrods. By the time the crews reached Hammersmith Bridge a little over a minute later, the lead had extended further to over 4 lengths and Cambridge went on to win the first piece convincingly.
The crews span to have a good paddle between the pieces, allowing the Dutch crew to bail some water they had collected in the headwind going past the Milepost. The second piece, but the third start of the fixture, began in a similar vein with the Netherlands taking an early advantage. The lead got up to half a length before the margin settled at race pace, Cambridge again coming back on terms with the help of the second part of the Surrey bend. The Dutch crew consistently held a small advantage in rough water, providing a much stiffer test for the Cambridge Blue Boat second time around. As the race began to move around to Middlesex, both crews were warned, and the Netherlands got to half a length ahead under Barnes Bridge.
With blades overlapping, Cambridge fought back again onto level terms with less than 3 minutes to go. They continued to push on and found themselves with Ben Ruble’s blade level with Dutch 2-Man Govert Viergever. The Dutch seemed to have little extra to offer and Cambridge began their push for the line which took them to nearly a length’s advantage in a very short period. This looked to have the result confirmed, however with the help of the inside of the bend, the Dutch crew put in a significant push approaching the finish line. Over the course of less than 15 strokes the Netherlands erased the deficit to finish the piece level and having pushed Cambridge hard for the best part of 10 minutes.
In inviting the Dutch crew over, the CUBC were looking to test themselves against experienced and accomplished opposition and this was certainly the case. With The BNY Mellon Boat Race only three weeks away, they will now look to capitalise on this experience.
b) Jasper Holst
2) Luke Juckett
3) Joshua Hooper
4) Alexander Leichter
5) William Warr
6) Matthew Jackson
7) Ben Ruble
8) Henry Hoffstot
c) Ian Middleton
b) Dirk Littenboyeazd
2) Govert Viergever
3) Kaj Hendriks
4) Peter Pannenkoek
5) Olivier Siegelaar
6) Boaz Meylink
7) Michiel Versluis
8) Robert Lucken
c) Peter Wiersum