On the third weekend of official fixtures for the Cancer Research UK Boat Races, Oxford Brookes University returned to Putney to take on the provisional Blue Boat from neighbours and close rivals Oxford University Boat Club.
The Oxford crew, steered by returning Blue Sam Collier and containing 2017 President Michael DiSanto, took the Surrey station ahead of the start of two pieces.
In blustery conditions, the first race got underway beneath Putney Bridge. OUBC went out hard, taking a couple of seats in the opening 20 strokes. Under the close observation of umpire John Garrett, the two crews exchanged blows as a refined, relaxed style from OUBC met the aggression and tenacity of a Brookes crew stacked with former Henley winners and U23 internationals. Steadily worsening conditions made the going tough, as OUBC stretched out to ¾ of a length. Both crews struggled in the chop, but it was the Dark Blues who looked to be coping better as they broke clear of Brookes passing Harrods Depository. Hammersmith Bridge loomed large as OUBC continued to draw away from their opponents – at St Paul’s School, the lead was nearly two lengths. Despite a late surge from Brookes, OUBC ran out reasonably comfortable winners in the first piece.
The second race began level with Chiswick Eyot in conditions that threatened to dictate the rhythm and dynamic of an absorbing contest. Both crews appeared to cope better than previous incidents though, as OUBC again took an early two-seat lead. However, Brookes rallied and the bows were level after 40 strokes. OUBC, who had the advantage of the Surrey bend, were smoother in their execution, which was paying dividends in choppy water. Approaching Barnes Bridge, the Dark Blues led by ½ length as the two boats slewed across the narrow passage of stream in search of faster water. Despite the best efforts of an increasingly desperate Brookes crew, OUBC managed to extend their lead to ¾ of a length as they edged around the final elbow of the course. Spurred on by persistent encouragement from their coaches, Brookes launched a final assault; the rate went up, the squeeze came on and the pain was evident in the assembled grimaces. Nonetheless, the sprint appeared to be working and, as the crews approached the line, it was Brookes who had the momentum. In testament to the competitiveness of the fixture, the final verdict was a seat to OUBC as all 16 athletes collapsed across the line.
The 163rd Boat Race and The 72nd Women’s Boat Race will take place on Sunday 2nd April 2017. The Cancer Research UK Women’s Boat Race will start at 16:35, with The Cancer Research UK Boat Race an hour later at 17:35.