In bright spring sunshine the potential Cambridge Blue Boat today took on a crew from Leander Club over 3 race-pace pieces on the Tideway. Conditions were close to perfect for the start of the first race, which was from the Race start in Putney to St. Paul’s School boathouse.
Leander Club in their characteristic cerise lycra were drawn on the Surrey station and moved quickly away at the start rating 42 strokes per minute, a few pips below the international mix from Cambridge. Speeding past the line of boats on the Putney stretch Leander just had their noses in front, but were receiving warnings from Boat Race Umpire Richard Phelps to keep to their own water. The lead was no more than 2 feet as the Light Blues settled to their racing rhythm of 37 strokes per minute. Again Leander were warned as were Cambridge passing Fulham Flats with the two sets of blades matching each other stroke for stroke.
With both coxes trying to find the fastest stream in very slack water, the crews converged, Phelps warning both but the blades briefly intertwined. This was the decisive moment of the race as Cambridge came out of the clash the better, their cohesion and time in the boat paying dividends. Now at 35 their steady rhythm eased their shell relentlessly past their competitors from Henley to take a 1/3 length lead at Barn Elms. Looking comfortable with a cohesive unit in the stern Cambridge continued to edge away, their lead was ½ length at the Mile Post and 1 length at Harrods.
Leander couldn’t respond despite the best efforts of former Oxford and GB cox Zoe de Toledo to energise her charges; their lack of preparation time began to show, having been unable to row on their home stretch of water due to flooding since late December. By Hammersmith Bridge Cambridge were in complete control enjoying a two length lead and able to choose which line they could take on the river. Holding a tight line around the Surrey bend the Light Blues had moved out to three lengths when the race was stopped at St. Paul’s.
For the second race of the day the crews paddled back to Barn Elms and swapped stations so Cambridge were now on Middlesex, Leander on Surrey. This time Cambridge at 47 quickly powered away from Leander who started at 42. Once more they settled into a comfortable rhythm to which Leander had no answer. Coach Steve Trapmore decided he’d seen enough before the planned finish at Chiswick Steps as his men had a lead of 3 lengths at Harrods, so stopped the race early, shortly before Hammersmith Bridge.
The final piece of work between the crews was from St. Paul’s to Chiswick Steps. The water by now was very still with no tide running in either direction as the Thames Barrier had been closed to prevent the expected spring tide meeting the huge mass of land water still charging towards the sea. Cambridge were again on Middlesex but this time Leander looked more determined. Both crews sprang out of the blocks at 45 strokes a minute and as in the first race it was Leander who pulled out a narrow lead. Enjoying the advantage of the Surrey bend, which de Toledo hugged to maximum advantage they continued with a slight lead benefitting from a warning to Cambridge who went wider approaching Chiswick Eyot.
Both crews settled at 37 but it was the solid rhythm that Cambridge established which pulled them back level and then out to a 1 length lead passing the Eyot. But Leander continued holding on to Cambridge before putting in a huge burst with 30 strokes to go. Rating 41 accompanied by some aggressive shouting in the boat, Leander came back on the Light Blues seat by seat, but it was too late and Cambridge, who had noted the charge but had only taken their own rate up by 2 pips, held on to take their third victory of the day by ¼ length.
Following the fixture Steve Trapmore was characteristically taciturn about what he’d learned but did admit it was great to get the first proper piece of racing done, “It was good to get out there and turn the screw a bit. Both our crews are going well right now so we still have to make some final changes.” And with a final warning to his squad, “There are still seats up for grabs.”
Bow: Michael Thorp
2: Luke Juckett
3: Ivo Dawkins
4: Steve Dudek
5: Helge Gruetjen
6: Matthew Jackson
7: Joshua Hooper
Stroke: Henry Hoffstot
Cox: Rosemary Ostfeld
Bow: Sam Agass
2: Oli Staite
3: Callum McBrierty
4: Tom Clark
5: Adam Neill
6: Francis Highton
7: Sean Dixon
Stroke: Tim Clarke
Cox: Zoe De Toledo
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