The independent voice of rowing in Britain

Cambridge celebrate after Henley clashes

Posted by rowingvoice on March 25, 2012

Cambridge had clear water as they passed Upper Thames

Oxford and Cambridge finished a sun-baked Sunday in Henley level at 2-2 but the headline of the day had to be a victory for the light blues in the Newton Women’s Boat Race, in nail-biting circumstances, ending a run of four successive defeats.

Cambridge had clear water and were almost two lengths up by some estimates when an over-the-head crab from the two seat brought them to a shuddering halt and allowed Oxford to draw level as the crews approached Temple Meadows and the final quarter of the race.

Caroline Reid regained her blade admirably, though. Cambridge on the Berkshire station managed to regain the advantage but this mobile phone video shows just how close the final quarter-length verdict was.

Anyone who has seen Anna Railton’s brilliant blog and cartoons can guess which four-letter word went through her mind as, sitting in the four seat, she looked down to see a blade next to her.

“I could see Oxford getting closer and closer and then obviously their cox realised and they went hell for leather,” said Railton, who was in the losing crew in 2009 and ’10 before taking last year off.

“We didn’t know who had won when we crossed the line. We had an inkling it was us but didn’t know. To be that far up and then almost lose it in the last minute is not how I’d want it to be but we won.”

The race had looked over by half-way, where Cambridge were a length and a half up, going through in three minutes 46 seconds, rating higher off the start and moving out efficiently.

Cambridge Women celebrate with coach Martyn Rooney

Oxford have endured an injury-hit winter, including having four potential squad members involved in a car crash in November. One made it into the blue boat and two – eventually – into reserve crew Osiris, who won a similarly eventful race by three-and –a-half lengths in 6’57.

There was a light-blue crab in that race too and Blondie, whose deficit of two-thirds of a length at the time was a more fair reflection of the difference between the crews, blamed their opponents for the clash that caused it.

Umpire Sir Matthew Pinsent was unimpressed, ruling that although he had been warning Osiris at the time, both crews were well over to the Buckinghamshire station and he was simply making sure the dark blues on Bucks took the slight bend at the Barrier.

Oxford’s other victory came in deserved fashion in the women’s lightweight race as they went out of the start at a slightly higher rating of 42 and looked the more cohesive crew as they gained clear water at the Upper Thames RC pontoon, where several of the Oxford men’s blue boat crew were cheering.

The final verdict was one-and-a-third lengths in 6’48, in which time the crews had swapped stations as light-blue cox Harriet Marsh looked to move out of her rivals’ wash.

Natalie Redgrave and Brianna Stubbs, both winners with Oxford in 2011 who chose not to compete this year, was still in lycra at the prize-giving thanks to their Pembroke College crew’s emphatic victory over Emmanuel of Cambridge in the women’s college race that kicked off the day’s action.

Caius, Cambridge denied Pembroke a clean sweep with victory by a third of a length in the men’s race, run over a shorter course to Remenham Farm.

Umpire Pinsent was called into action again for the final race of the day but declared Cambridge’s lightweight men victorious by three-quarters of a length in 6’00, even though they were at fault for a clash in the final stages.

The light blues had taken an early lead and, despite conceding some of that through the middle of the race, had cox Mike Hook level with the Oxford bow four by the time he moved over from the Berkshire station.

“Cambridge were in the wrong. It was messy and unnecessary but did it affect the outcome of the race? No,” said Pinsent as he tucked into a well-deserved slice of fruitcake at the end of a day that also required him to paddle a broken-down launch ashore.

The light men in light blue headed straight for the champagne and celebrated in style.

By Martin Gough

In the next Rowing Voice online magazine – out in the first week of April – Martin will be asking how much the women’s boat clubs still need to do before they join the men’s Boat Race on the Thames in London from 2015. Find out how to secure your copy.


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