With two days to go until the 2017 Cancer Research UK Boat Races, the crews are entering the twilight zone – the last few hours ahead of the biggest race of most of the athletes lives.
At this stage of the game, most of the finishing touches have been applied – the next 48 hours are all about rest, relaxation and mental preparation for the 36 athletes due to take part on Sunday.
However, there is one part of the race which has yet to be properly experienced by the crews – the start. When Oxford and Cambridge arrive under the struts of Putney Bridge on Sunday afternoon, they will be greeted by two moored boats onto which they must attach. This is a tricky job – the wind and stream can affect the run and movement of the shell, making it difficult to attach to the stake-boat.
Upon attaching, each crew will undergo any final preparations, whether that be taking on fluid, shedding layers or taking a deep breath and steadying themselves for the race ahead. The coxes, while raising their hand into the air, will attempt to get their boat straight, and the umpire will wait until both coxes’ hands are down (a hand down signifies that the crew are happy with the line and ready to get the race underway).
All four Blue Boats were practising their starts today for the first time. Although most of the athletes are quite accustomed to standing starts, the nature of attaching to a moored boat on the Tideway makes the job somewhat more complex than usual.
All four crews seemed to deal with the conditions admirably and Oxford’s men looked to be the most comfortable off the start. A prevailing wind complicated the clean start and it remains to be seen how well the four crews deal with this procedure in front of thousands of spectators on Sunday.