There is just one month remaining before The Newton Women’s Boat Race is held in conjunction with The BNY Mellon Boat Race for the first time on the Tideway between Putney and Mortlake.
Yesterday saw the Cambridge Women test their race preparations on the Championship course, this time against Imperial College (IC).
Cambridge had three returning Blues in their line up including President Caroline Reid in the 3 seat. Rosemary Ostfeld, who coxed Goldie last year is now in the coxes seat for the Light Blue Women, while last year’s Isis cox Sophie Shawdon took the helm for Imperial.
The Umpire was Simon Harris, who will be taking the reins for The Newton Women’s Boat Race itself in April. Harris is a man with plentiful experience of the Tideway and The Boat Race; a Cambridge Blue in 1982 and 1983 he umpired the men’s Race in 2003, 2005 and 2009. He was to need all his experience in today’s no-holds-barred racing.
The crews raced over two pieces; the first from The Boat Race start to Hammersmith Bridge, the second from the Mile Post to Chiswick Steps. Cambridge won the toss for stations and chose Surrey.
From the start of the first race the action was intense. Imperial sprang off at 42 strokes per minute grabbing an early advantage. Cambridge at 41 were quick to receive their first warning from Harris as they fought to take the best of the water. Imperial were warned in turn as the crews dogged it out passing the Putney boat houses. Settling to a rate of 35 Imperial held a canvas lead passing their home base, which they’d edged out to a ¼ length at the Town Buoy.
Both crews kept the umpire busy each receiving repeated warnings, though both looked to be out of the best water taking a tight line around the Fulham bend. By Barn Elms the Light Blues had started to creep back and were back on level terms at the Mile Post. Again both crews were warned as neither cox yielded, but coming up to Harrods it was Cambridge who held a tiny advantage.
Imperial showed their strength in the final minute of the race, rating two pips higher than Cambridge at 35 strokes per minute to pull back the deficit. Approaching Hammersmith Bridge neither cox was willing to concede the best water. The crews were fortunate to avoid a serious clash of blades at the finish, with Umpire Simon Harris declaring the verdict was too close to call.
After this dogged battle Cambridge were determined to gain the upper hand. In a rolling start from the Mile Post and still on the Surrey station they went off at 42 to take an early lead which Imperial found difficult to live with. Harris was again kept fully occupied attempting to keep both crews in their own water but the light blue women were less troubled than earlier having pulled out to 1 length at Harrods.
Cambridge settled into a race pace of 33 strokes per minute, Imperial stayed higher at 35 but it was Cambridge who were getting more from their boat stretching out to a ¼ length of clear water through Hammersmith Bridge. For 20 strokes Imperial tucked in behind the light blue boat, then putting in a push at St. Paul’s School moved back to their own station, taking back some of the deficit.
Maintaining a rate of 33 Cambridge didn’t respond to the Imperial push and were warned to move back on to their own station. With the water becoming rougher along the Chiswick Reach, Imperial exhibiting a strong rhythm at 36 gained an overlap at the top of Chiswick Eyot.
This time it was the Imperial crew who received repeated warnings as they tried to muscle Cambridge out of the best water. Seeing the danger Fanny Belais in the Cambridge stroke seat edged her rate higher, supported by a strong pair at 7 and 6 in Hannah Roberts and Holly Hill.
Once more as the race entered its closing stages both crews blades were overlapping, knitting in and out of each other lucky not to clash. Reaching Chiswick Steps and the end of the race after seven and a half minutes of dogged battle Cambridge maintained their lead of 2/3 length after being put under intense pressure by a tough crew from Imperial.
b) Hannah Evans
2) Ashton Brown
3) Caroline Reid*
4) Claire Watkins*
5) Melissa Wilson*
6) Holly Hill
7) Hannah Roberts
s) Fanny Belais
c) Rosemary Ostfeld
Imperical College BC
b) Sara Parfett
2) Jo Thom
3) Victoria Watts
4) Georgia Francis
5) Michelle Velie
6) Ruth Whyman
7) Isa Von Loga
s) Rebecca Shorten
c) Sophie Shawdon