On Sunday 3rd of March, the Oxford reserve crew Isis took on University of London Boat Club in the second of their pre-race fixtures.
UL are one of the strongest university rowing clubs in the country, and this crew featured half of those who had faced the Oxford Blue Boat the week before. With clear sunny skies, and only a slight tailwind, Isis won the toss and chose the Middlesex station.
In the first of two pieces, from the Boat Race start at Putney Pier to the top of Chiswick Eyot, both crews started well, with Isis rating 45, and UL matching them stroke for stroke. By the black buoy, Isis was able to grind out a quarter length lead, and were gradually inching their way ahead. UL were not to be beaten so easily however, and pushed very hard coming around the outside of the Fulham bend and towards the milepost, striking 38 and drawing back almost level. The crews traded blows up the milepost straight, with both coxes being warned by umpire Richard Phelps, umpire of last year’s Isis-Goldie race.
By Harrods, Isis had pulled out to a ¾ length lead, and the crew was moving in a good rhythm together. Just before Hammersmith Bridge, Laurie Harvey, in the driving seat of the Isis boat, was able to take the best water heading towards St. Paul’s School. Despite the best efforts of the UL crew, they were unable to close the distance on Isis, who won the first piece by just under a length.
In the second of the two pieces, from the middle of the Eyot to the Boat Race finish UL, keen for revenge, pulled out an early ¾ length lead. Taking the remainder of their advantage in the Surrey bend up to the crossing, UL were able to maintain this lead, and though still in contact with Isis, moved over to the middle of the stream to take the best water.
With UL being continuously warned by the umpire between the Crossing and the Bandstand, and with considerable clashing of blades, UL were eventually forced to move back to their station, as Isis began to move up on them. Coming under Barnes Bridge, UL’s lead had been reduced to only a couple of seats, and soon the crews were level with 2 and a half minutes to go. As the coxes began to call for the final sprint, Isis found their best rowing and continued to gain ground. In a nail biting finish Isis, rowing at 41 to UL’s 40, emerged victors by ¾ of a length.