OUBC faced Oxford Brookes in the first of their official pre-Race fixtures on the Championship Course.
Calm water upon arrival at the Tideway yesterday did little to dampen expectations of rough water once the tide was coming in. A strong south-westerly wind made for tough conditions around the Eyot and in the finishing bend at Barnes.
OUBC faced Oxford Brookes in a derby match on the Championship Course, split over two pieces: the first from the Start to the Eyot, the second from the Eyot to the Finish. In the first piece, both crews made solid starts and stayed level for the first minute. On the Surrey station, OUBC made the first move and managed to take a few seats at the Town Buoy to pre-empt the Brookes advantage going into the first bend.
Brookes moved back on terms once the fixture had passed Fulham, utilising a race plan that was much more composed than the extremely aggressive start versus Cambridge two weeks ago. Their rhythm looked solid and reliable, and that they could take an opportunity to move when they needed to. Between the Milepost and Harrods they did so, putting on their own pressure to find themselves two-thirds of a length up going under Hammersmith Bridge.
Here, however, Brookes caught a blade in the water, bringing OUBC back to level terms and handing back the momentum. With the river moving back to Surrey, OUBC grabbed the initiative and looked to be moving in what had become increasingly rough water approaching the Eyot.
With the final builds for the finish approaching, a sailing boat failed to clear the path for the racing crews disappointingly forcing the first piece to be ended early.
The loss of a minute or so from the first piece negated the need to spin before starting the second, with the crews drifting along the Eyot to be clear of the sailing boats. Brookes bailed the water they had taken on and the second half of the fixture was started. With the wind whipping up the incoming tide, OUBC got the better of the starts taking a seat or two, but within a minute the fixture was again halted by a stray sailor. The crews stopped, passed the sailors and were underway quickly, with OUBC this time making the much better start and gaining 2/3 length which extended to a length with the help of the final part of the Surrey bend.
A small break in the headwind allowed both crews to find their race rhythm before the Bandstand, and Brookes looked the stronger crew and began to move back on terms – the final Middlesex bend all to their advantage from that point onwards. OUBC were never able to move in front with Brookes holding on through the start sequence, but by Barnes Bridge Brookes had moved their bow in front and momentum was with them for the final four minutes.
Both crews had a tough fight on their hands in the strong headwind on the final section of the Championship Course. Brookes began to expand the gap between themselves and OUBC, who seemed to struggle more in the rough water. A minute or so after Barnes Bridge Brookes had a length, which then became two as they pushed for the finish.
OUBC used their bends well to contain a composed Brookes crew and fought hard around the outside of the bend in the latter stages, but Brookes proved too strong in the rough water. The fixture was exactly 5 weeks before The Cancer Research UK Boat Races giving time for training to incorporate the lessons learned on a tough day on the Tideway.
OUBC Provisional Blue Boat:
Bow) George McKirdy
2) Nik Hazell
3) Morgan Gerlak
4) Ben McSweeney
5) Will Geffen
6) Joshua Bugajski
7) Jamie Cook
Stroke) Jorgen Tveit
Cox) Sam Collier