In a high-spirited and well mannered contest, Oxford (with an average age of 46) put up a valiant row, but Cambridge stroke Fred Gill (BB09)’s aggressive rhthym proved insurmountable. Cambridge (somewhat younger with an average age of 45) won the toss, selecting the road-side station which had seen the current Blue Boat put to devastating use some three weeks previously. Conditions were calm, with a gentle wind and clear skies as both crews took to the water. A narrowboat on the course delayed the start by several minutes, yet both crews got off cleanly as Umpire Caroline Lytton dropped the red flag to start the race. Oxford stroke Tom Baker (Isis 2001) was well supported by his bow four as he drove the rate up off the start, with the dark blue crew forming a very tidy unit. However the power in the middle of the Cambridge boat, led by Matthew Parish (BB 9495, Olympics 96) at 6 was substantial, and the light-blues took an early half length lead.
Oxford relaxed into a smooth rhythm, with Cambridge staying slightly higher and extending their lead to a length by the 500m marker. An attack from Oxford at 1000m saw them check Cambridge’s advantage to two lenths for 20 strokes, but it was unsustainable and with a shout of encouragement from Guy Pooley (BB 88, 89, 90, 91, Olympics 92 96) in the 2 seat the light-blue puddles darkened as the hull picked up. Cambridge were now cruising, evidently enjoying their stride, and with every stroke moving further away. A narrowboat on the course at 1200m saw Oxford forced to move behind, but their rhythm was not disturbed and they continued to chase the Cambridge boat down. A wise tactical decision from cox Daina Sadurska lifted Oxford’s rate to 36 with 500m till the finish, and this early sprint was effective at holding Cambridge’s margin. A more relaxed push to line from Cambridge saw them finish 4 lengths ahead of their rivals, in a winning time of 7 minutes 51 seconds.
Half an hour after the men’s start saw the first ever Cambridge Women’s alumni 1 crew line up on the start line. Unfortunately Oxford had not been able to put together a crew in time, so Cambridge, having been aligned to the start marker by Sarah Winckless MBE, started their row-over at a crisp 38 strokes per minute. The enthusiasm in the crew was palpable, and the rate never dropped below 33 as the crew crossed the finish line to applause from the finish judge and the Umpire’s launch, in a time of 9 minutes and 40 seconds.
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