In the final official fixture prior to The Newton Women’s Boat Race on 11th April Oxford University Women’s Boat Club took on a crew from Imperial College.
Oxford’s Blue Boat was announced earlier in the week and featuring four returning Blues from last year’s winning crew, including President Anastasia Chitty sitting at two. At stroke they have one of the world’s most successful oarswomen of recent years in Caryn Davies, from the USA’s Olympic Gold winning eight at the past two Games.
The first piece from the Boat Race start saw Oxford on the Middlesex station get off quickly at 43 strokes per minute. Umpire Simon Harris was forced to warn Imperial almost immediately as they narrowed the space between the two boats, but very quickly they were half a length down. Oxford, maintaining their high tempo, led by ¾ length as the crews sped past the Town Buoy looking sharp and in control.
Approaching Barn Elms Boat House, Oxford who had taken their rate down to a rhythmic 33, had stretched away to 1 ½ lengths. Imperial at 35 were then upset by a large wash from a passing launch, taking on a considerable quantity of water and the race was stopped before The Mile Post.
Following the disruption, the crews paddled back to Putney allowing Imperial to bail out their boat and then to try again. The story was similar from the 2nd start. Oxford still on Middlesex powered away at a solid 43 strokes per minute, compared to Imperial’s 41, and while both crews received warnings it was Oxford who again took the early advantage.
In an almost exact repetition of the earlier race Oxford had ¾ length advantage at the Town Buoy. Settling to 33 the Blue Boat stretched the lead stroke by stroke with Imperial unable to respond to the strength of the Oxford crew. By Barn Elms the lead was 1 length by the Mile Post it was closer to 2. Imperial had no answer as Oxford extended their lead finishing 4 lengths ahead at Hammersmith Bridge.
The final contest on a sunny spring afternoon in almost perfect conditions saw the crews again take the same stations. Starting mid-way along Chiswick Eyot Imperial were determined to make the most of their advantage around the Surrey bend, slipping away quickly at 44 to take an early lead.
This was pressure that Oxford hadn’t experienced in any of their previous matches but they responded well. As Imperial were repeatedly warned the Dark Blues chunky rhythm kicked in allowing them to creep back on Imperial who were still rating in the high thirties. Moving past The Bandstand at Dukes Meadow Oxford had gained the advantage, edging ahead and inexorably out to 1 length.
Imperial kept to their task and for the rest of the race Oxford couldn’t break completely free, though they continued to underrate the Imperial crew. Shooting Barnes Bridge the lead was still 1 length. Davies the Oxford stroke put in a burst at the Bridge, taking the rate up to 36 in a last attempt to gain clear water. By the finish at Tradesman’s Buoy, 200m beyond the Bridge, Oxford had completed their afternoon’s work just over 1 length to the good.