The independent voice of rowing in Britain

Dead heat to Cambridge by 4.25 lengths

Posted by rowingvoice on April 7, 2012

Rowing Voice magazine 6-2 now out – see to download.  The events of Saturday 7 April rather overtook us but in this month’s issue:

  • After Great Britain name their crews for 2012, Katherine Grainger talks about the pressure of being a favourite to collect the country’s first ever women’s Olympic gold and partner Anna Watkins says, “It can’t all be about not getting another silver medal. After all, for me, silver would be a step up.”
  • With five men still in line for the GB four and five more for the quad, we look at the questions that still remain over GB’s London line-ups, ask whether Britain can remain the top Olympic rowing nation and look at selection elsewhere.
  • We discuss whether the Boat Race has become a retirement home for former internationals or is still the nursery for future Olympians.  And how, two weeks ago, the women’s event showed how much work the clubs still have to do before their Tideway move in 2015.
  • Coach Alex Henshilwood explains why he sees the finish as the foundation of the rowing stroke and a sports osteopath looks at how to avoid pain in the patella.

Meanwhile, here is a launch’s eye view of the action on the Thames on Easter Saturday

158th Boat Race

Truly it can be said that the 158th Boat Race was a race of two halves. All predictions were off. The first ten minutes was probably the closest Boat Race we’ve seen since 1829, but ended in a dead-heat farce when a suicidal swimmer in a wet suit dived below the surface to avoid Oxford’s blades, was picked up by the Umpire’s launch, and cuffed when the police got to him.

The second half started alongside Chiswick Eyot half an hour after the incident with the crews level. Chiswick Steps were passed 35 seconds later, Garrett raised his flag and warned Oxford, there was a clash, Oxford’s No 6, Hanno Wienhausen, found himself rowing without a spoon on his loom, and frig-rigged Cambridge romped away. Dark Blue cox Zoe de Toledo tried her own semaphore at Garrett, to no avail. The Light Blues had three lengths at Barnes Bridge and were thirteen seconds ahead at the finish.

De Toledo raised her hand under Chiswick Bridge, and Garrett explained that because crews are responsible for their own mishaps, Oxford were being warned at the time of clash and Cambridge were in their rights on the river, the appeal was turned down.

That was not the end of the drama, either. Oxford’s bow man Alex Woods collapsed in the boat, was transferred to the Oxford launch Bosporos and eventually taken to Charing Cross Hospital where his condition was described as stable. His heart may have stopped but he was conscious when eventually transferred to an ambulance from Bosporos.

And so, back to the beginning. Many pundits had expected the lighter Oxford crew, artists of the clean quick start, to streak off and stretch away to close the door in the opening minutes. Instead they found Cambridge, toss winners on the Surrey station, hanging on and looking strong.

It was hard to judge from Majestic, the press launch on the Surrey station, but the most that Oxford went ahead was about two seats at the yellow buoy (known as the black buoy). At Barn Elms the crews were level — and close together, which caused umpire John Garrett to exercise a lot of semaphore, much of it directed at both coxes simultaneously. Oxford went ahead again by a shade before the Mile but were fractionally apart as the flag dropped. At Hammersmith Bridge there was nothing between them, either going into the bridge or, remarkably, coming out of it when Cambridge’s Ed Bosson ensured that he kept Toledo over to Middlesex. Mind, Bosson got some flag from Garrett before the bridge.

Approaching St Paul’s slipway Cambridge were up by three or four seats but at the blue window of the late Julian Trevelyan’s studio — roughly half way — the Cambridge advantage was again under threat. Here, along the long Middlesex bend, was where the Light Blues were supposed to excel, to bring their mighty engine into play and wear down the darker lightweights (comparatively speaking, that is). But no. Rather, despite the Cambridge running and how, Oxford  kept on going, and with the crews level at Chiswick Steps, we were all set for a duel at the Crossing and a belter round Duke’s Meadows where Oxford would regain the bend advantage.

Alas, it wasn’t to be. The race was stopped by a swimmer, a swimmer with, it seems, evil intent. Assistant umpire Sir Matt Pinsent, on the umpire’s launch, spotted him first. Garrett could do nothing but stop the race while the chasing flottila slammed into reverse and rode out the swell. The umpire launch driver Jamie Turner grabbed the wet suit and with one heaving stroke landed it on the deck, complained that the amphibian had caused Jamie’s chinos to get wet, and attributed a female part of the anatomy to him which even Rowing Voice has not the temerity to utter.

‘I found it very British,’ Pinsent said at a press conference later, ‘the way a swimmer swam out and stopped a great sporting occasion and we were responsible for rescuing him.’ The culprit was transferred to an RNLI boat and then to a police launch.

Half an hour later, the crews returned to the foot of Chiswick Eyot where Garrett judged they could be started alongside each other in a part of the river where neither was dis-advantaged. There was not much water between them. Oxford again began quicker and showed a little in front when after about 40 seconds there was a mighty melée. Wienhausen lost the end of his blade and Oxford were effectively down to seven men, though he rowed along with his handle and loom in good rhythm. Cambridge surged ahead. It must have been thrilling for Bosson, who according to the Guinness Books of Records holds the one for wake-boarding across the Channel (2 hours 12 minutes).

Oxford made a good fist of it from Chiswick to the finish, but it was a forlorn hope. To have their appeal turned down and their bow man Woods pass out marked the end of a bad day at the office. I daresay that Cambridge have mixed emotions as well, despite bringing their total in the series to 81 against Oxford’s 76, not forgetting the dead heat.

Oxford coach Sean Bowden said after the races:

‘Obviously our biggest concern is Alex’s welfare and it was good to see that he was conscious and taken off to hospital with good care. But this really was the product of the most extraordinary and unfortunate chain of events that have conspired against us to take away a win which I think we looked like we were about to take in the race proper.’

Cambridge men paid tribute to Alex as well. The trophy was not presented at the end of the race, so it was also a bad day for prize-presenter Mayor Boris Johnston (one theory is that the swimmer was Ken Livingstone).

Incidentally, a hundred years ago was almost as eventful. Cambridge sank off Harrods and Oxford beached to empty their boat opposite the Dove. The race was re-run on the following Monday, this time with an Oxford victory.

Christopher Dodd


Oxford versus Cambridge

  • Chiswick Eyot to race finish: Cambridge beat Oxford by 4 and a quarter lengths, 6 minutes 50 seconds
  • Start to Chiswick Steps +
  • Intermediate times (Cambridge first)
  • Mile 3.42; 3.42
  • Hammersmith Bridge: 6.42; 6.42
  • Chiswick Steps 10.23; 10.23
  • Race stopped after 10.32 minutes
  • Restart from Chiswick Eyot 30.48 minutes later
  • Chiswick Steps: 0.35, 0.35
  • Barnes Bridge: 4.01, 4.10
  • Finish 6.51; 7.04
  • Consolidated time (sum of two races): Cambridge 17.23; Oxford 17.36
  • Series: Cambridge 81, Oxford 76, 1 dead heat

Isis versus Goldie

  • Isis beat Goldie by 5 lengths, 16 minutes 41 seconds
  • Intermediate times (Isis first)
  • Mile: 3.42; 3.43
  • Hammersmith Bridge: 6.42; 6.46
  • Chiswick Steps: 10.23; 10,29
  • Barnes Bridge: 13.54; 14.05
  • Finish: 16.41 (new reserve race record); 16.56

Series: Goldie 29, Isis 19


Bow: Dr Alex Woods (Pembroke), William Zeng (Oriel), Kevin Blaum (Trinity), Alex Davidson (Christ Church), Karl Hudspith (St. Peter’s), Dr Hanno Wienhausen (Christ Church), Dan Harvey (Mansfield), stroke Roel Haen (Oriel), cox Zoe de Toledo (St. Catherine’s).


Bow: David Nelson (Hughes Hall), Moritz Schramm (Fitzwilliam), Jack Lindeman (Hughes Hall), Alex Ross (Caius), Mike Thorp (Homerton), Steve Dudek (St. Edmund’s), Alexander Scharp (St. Edmund’s), stroke Niles Garrratt (Hughes Hall), cox Ed Bosson (Pembroke).


3 Responses to “Dead heat to Cambridge by 4.25 lengths”

  1. Bailey said

    Best report of the race I have read.
    Easy to say after the event but it was a great shame the Umpire didn’t stop the re-row when he saw the blade was broken and schedule a new race later in the week. Both crews deserved better and It was a very unsatisfactory end to what was shaping up to be an enthraliing contest.

  2. fatsculler said

    A great report Christopher (as always). This was certainly a race that will live long in the memory. I strongly believe that Garrett made a difficult, courageous but ultimately correct decision following the breaking of the blade. But the race was destroyed by the idiot in the water who robbed the world of potentially one of the best races ever.
    One can only imagine how the Oxford crew must be feeling right now, to lose the race having rowed your best, given your all, but be beaten by the better crew on the day is one thing, but to lose without having the chance to perform to your best is a nagging itch that will stay with the members of the 2012 Oxford Blue Boat for the rest of their lives.
    I would love to see both Blue Boats enter Henley Royal regatta and race eachother again.

  3. […] have escaped notice – but take a read of probably the best race report yet.  Written by Chris Dodd for Rowing Voice Magazine “Dead Heat to Cambridge by 4.25 lengths” says it all.  But there’s more – […]

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