The independent voice of rowing in Britain

Putting the W into the weigh-in

Posted by rowingvoice on March 6, 2013


The men’s 2013 Blue Boats square up to each other on the Tideway shoals at Putney.

University Boat Races crew announcement and weigh-in

Blackfriars, Monday 4 March 2013

‘This is a time when, we argue, it is essential to be active and flexible; it is no time to be passive. Indeed, the risk warning that you see on investment products – that past performance is no guide to future performance – really does hold true.’

My text is taken from the financial market prospects for 2013 and beyond as seen by Newton, the global thematic investing company that is part of Bank of New York Mellon, sponsors of the women’s and men’s boat races respectively. If the analysts at Newton didn’t get the wisdom of past performance being no guide to future performance from the University Boat Race, then they might just as well have done. The men have been testing the maxim since 1829, and being active and flexible to peak on the day is an ingredient of a day in the office for Boat Race coaches, whether they are preparing crews to battle from Putney to Mortlake or belt down Henley Reach.

Such thoughts occurred at Monday’s weigh-in for the crews for the women’s race on March 24 at Henley and the men’s on March 31 at Putney. It was historic because the it was the first occasion that the men’s and women’s crews had weighed in together, the first move in the transfer of the women’s race to Boat Race Day on the Tideway in two years’ time.

The proceedings in the comfort of the Blackfriars HQ of Mellon and Newton began with the obligatory deep throated sound track under scenes of Boat race grunt and grind – ‘Time for the talking to stop! Time for the heart to start ticking! When eight become one! Human synergy in perfect motion! For this one moment, the time has come!

It was good to note that some of the footage belonged to Acer Nethercott’s crews, the philosopher, physicist and cox who steered Oxford to victory in both the men’s and women’s races in the course of his career, and who died of brain cancer this year at all too young an age.

When the fanfare and screen malarkey died down, there was Sir Matt Pinsent, umpire of the men’s race, to master the ceremonies in the chair. The crews sat facing each other, men on bar stools and women on chairs in front, as Matt called them up to the scales by seat.

Pounds were translated to stones, pounds and ounces on screens – so much more clinical than the old days when an old heavy would take the readings and laboriously do the conversion while everyone waited with baited breath while harbouring their own opinion about the maths. Matt didn’t have to do any sums, but he fell over himself a couple of times in the excitement of compering the first joint weigh-in by inadvertently inserting a ‘W’ when referring to OUBC and CUBC.

For the record, Cambridge’s women are heavier, averaging (excluding coxes) 11st 10oz to Oxford’s 10st 6lb 13oz; while the Oxford men are 14st 12lb 12oz to Cambridge’s 14st 6lb 14oz. There was a welcome absence of going for a record by drinking litres of water beforehand and rushing for the loos afterwards. Statistically heavier crews win more races, but don’t put money on it.

On grooming and sartorial matters, short hair is clearly in for men and long for women. They would all look great on the catwalk if they didn’t have to wear predictable shades of blue Lycra. Helena Morrisey, Newton’s chief executive, took the chic prize for a dark blue cardi worn over an elegant light blue print dress.

The Oxford women wore their hair up as if ready to step into the boat. The Cambridge women wore theirs down. This was not just to distinguish them from the enemy, but also to flaunt their locks over the left breast to cover up the accidental CUBC logo on their lovely Hackett tops. Where Matt kept inserting the W, Hackett unfortunately lost it.

The coaches, Christine Wilson (OUWBC), Rob Baker (CUWBC), Sean Bowden (OUBC) and Steve Trapmore (CUBC), predictably expressed their joy at the support of their sponsors and the preparedness of their crews. Once off the stage, Bowden admitted that the old tradition of clashing in side-by-side pieces with London University had been revived, and that Oxford may have bitten off more than they can chew when a German composite of current or ex-internationals turns up to race them on March 17.

Newton quotes the Chinese curse in its market prospects literature that also applies to boat races – ‘May you live in interesting times.’

The 2013 women's Blue Boats

The 2013 women’s Blue Boats

Christopher Dodd


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