The final sessions for the Oxford and Cambridge crews brought with it the ominous warnings of poor weather, as strong squalls and stiff headwinds dictated the rhythm of the crew’s outings.
Oxford men were the first to boat, paddling up to Hammersmith Bridge in pairs and fours. The Dark Blues have improved significantly since their defeat to local rivals Brookes back in February, and the crew looked sharp. In front of assembled family, friends and media, they practised a few start sequences in calmer conditions beyond Hammersmith Bridge before turning and heading back towards Putney.
If the weather around Harrods Depository was anything to go by for tomorrow, we are in for an interesting spectacle. The wind and rain whipped up the river, soaking athletes and press alike.
Cambridge men also ventured out onto the river for a short paddle – the crew displayed good length and sharp work around the catch. They too struggled in the unpleasant conditions, but the experience will prove useful if the crews face similar on Sunday.
Oxford women took to the water a little later in the day, waiting for the tide to turn and the weather to placate. Accompanied by the eagle eyes of coach Christine Wilson and Dark Blue alumni Neil Chugani, the Blue Boat swept past the Putney Embankment before heading upstream. Watching them paddle was tantamount to Zen; they rowed for what seemed like an age, with only the comments of their cox Morgan Baynham-Williams and their own thoughts for company. It was serenity, the calm before the storm.
As the racing draws ever closer, the sense of anticipation is ratcheting up in Putney. TV and broadcast crews from across the world have descended on the area to finalise logistical preparations for Sunday, whilst the crews apply finishing touches to their warm-up and start routines. Yesterday saw all four boats practice leaving the stake-boats under Putney Bridge to varying degrees of success – Osiris managed to get their fin stuck on a rope, to much amusement from the bank.
Despite the deterioration of the weather, it can mean only one thing – the 2016 Cancer Research UK Boat Races are almost here.