In the closest race of the day, the women’s alumni crews kicked off proceedings for the annual Veteran’s Boat Race. Oxford won the coin toss and chose Middlesex. This race was set to be the big decider: both clubs having previously won one race each, with the inaugural race won by Oxford in 2022 and Cambridge the reigning champions in 2023.

This was the third women’s vets boat race, so these 16 women (and coxes) had the opportunity to make history, and take the lead in the tally. However, fate had other plans

The crews started level, both coping well in the rough water, rating just above 40 and settling at 37. Cambridge only having had 3 outings together as a crew, and Oxford battling the waves to get a last-minute practice session in boat-sinking conditions the previous weekend, both crews were prime examples of fortitude and resilience in the face of adversity. And it was in this spirit that they raced today.

The crews were level along the Putney embankment and looked well-matched to start with. But by Barn Elms, Oxford had pulled ahead, really delivering on their strategy to front-load the race. It paid off and Oxford extended their lead of a canvas to an impressive two-thirds of a length by Crabtree pub, soon after the Mile Post marker. The fortitude of stroke, Lebby Eyre, really becoming apparent – having previous rowed across the Atlantic just 3 years ago.

Having led for most of the race, Oxford’s luck changed as Cambridge took advantage of the inside bend and started their push for victory at Harrod’s. By Hammersmith Bridge, Cambridge had narrowed Oxford’s lead to only a quarter of a length. And coming up to the finish line both crews were bow ball to bow ball, with a nail-biting final verdict of a dead heat in a time of 8 minutes and 54 seconds.

WORDS: Anna Robotham
PHOTOS: BigBlade