The Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club Trial Eights took place on bouncy water in blustery conditions, although far from the worst December’s weather can provide.
As is Trial Eights tradition, the race took place on the Championship Course and represented the only opportunity for the clubs to row competitively side-by-side along the full distance they will take on Boat Races day.
The Light Blues opted for Twickenham and Tideway as names, in recognition of the change in location for both The Women’s Boat Race and the Women’s Varsity Match, and it was the latter who drew the favoured Surrey station. This slight psychological advantage perhaps played its part beforehand as Tideway, stroked by returning Blue Daphne Martschenko, looked visibly more confident than their light blue counterparts.
Trial Eights are brutal in their nature and design, pitting friend against friend, and crews can be susceptible to nerves, mistakes and the wrath of the 4 and a quarter mile course. However, both crews got away cleanly under the watchful eye of umpire Rob Clegg and, perhaps surprisingly, it was Twickenham who stole the immediate impetus. They got away well and had established a strong rhythm by the top of the Putney embankment, drawing out to a slight lead over Tideway. Clegg was forced into early action as he negotiated the crews apart past Fulham football ground as Twickenham, buoyed by their powerful start and enjoying the Middlesex-station benefits of the first bend, continued to draw away from Tideway.
The experience of coxswain Rosemary Ostfeld began to show as Twickenham stretched out to a length; the most subtle of tweaks on the rudder and her opponents were rowing in the dirty water laid down by her impressive looking crew. As the race edged on towards Hammersmith Bridge and the water became visibly choppier, both crews veered towards the Surrey bank. Tideway, steered by 19 year old Olivia Godwin, collided with a white buoy approaching Hammersmith which doubtless cost them additional distance. However, the race was relatively unaffected; Twickenham had established a real dominance over proceedings with a sharp, efficient rhythm which made use of their superior power in the middle of the boat.
By Chiswick Eyot, the lead was two and a half lengths. By this stage Tideway were struggling to connect with the water at the front end and seemed a little at odds with the conditions. After the halfway mark, Twickenham continued to move away and finished the race four lengths ahead of Tideway.