By Ed Twist
Today saw a dominant Cambridge University complete a clean sweep of the annual Cambridge/Oxford Boat Races held on the Thames with all four Cambridge crews winning by comfortable margins.
The Women’s Blue boats started the day’s action with the Cambridge crew boasting four returning Blues to Oxford’s one. Results throughout the season always seemed to suggest that this would be Cambridge’s day with far superior results at the 4’s Head of the River, in the private match races done in preparation against other clubs and a strong showing at the recent Women’s Eights Head of the River race run over the same distance.
Cambridge lept out to an early lead which they never looked like surrendering and in fact continued to extend all the way out to 7 lengths at the finish. Whilst Oxford put in a valiant effort against the odds, Cambridge managed to win two years running for the first time since the start of this century and whilst it could be the start of an era of dominance for Cambridge, Oxford’s new coach Andy Nelder will hope to build on this year and with his excellent record working with the Oxford Men’s reserve crews prior to him taking the role at OUWBC, it could be an interesting tussle between him and Rob Baker at Cambridge in the future.
One aspect definitely in Cambridge’s favor is their depth of talent. The women’s reserve crew, Blondie, backed up their Blue Boat’s dominant display with a 9-length victory over Osiris, the Oxford women’s reserve crew. In a race that followed a similar pattern to the Blue boat race, Cambridge took an early lead and kept moving away to emphasize the difference in the two programmes this year.
Love it, only the British could have a major sporting event explained by reference to the pubs en route. #boatrace2018 pic.twitter.com/REzU43s25r
— Nick Elwell-Sutton (@nickehyphens) March 24, 2018
The men’s reserve race, between Cambridge’s Goldie crew and Oxford’s Isis crew, named for the river in Oxford that they train on, saw another strong win for Cambridge by 2-3 lengths which was Goldie’s first win for 8 years in an era that Oxford have tended to hold the upper hand across the boat races.
The final race of the day, the Men’s Blue Boat’s, saw Cambridge take control of the race in the first few minutes. The form leading up to the race had suggested that Cambridge were the stronger of the two crews. Both had raced against Oxford Brookes University and lost but in doing so Cambridge had perhaps had the closer of the two loses. Oxford Brookes deserve an honourable mention after these victories and their dead heat with Leander club at the Head of the River race. They can now plausibly claim to be the best University set up in Europe and depending on how they fare against Washington University in the upcoming Windermere Cup, one of if not the best in the world.
Returning to today’s races, whilst there was some aggressive steering that saw Cambridge warned by the umpire a couple of times, Cambridge quickly got to a length of clear water and was able to dictate the race. Oxford did well to contain Cambridge to just a 3-length victory and might reflect on what has been a turbulent run-up to the race with a last-minute change to the line-up affecting their preparations. This does not take away from a strong performance from Steve Trapmore’s CUBC crew who sent their departing coach off on an excellent note as he joins the GB Rowing set up.
Cambridge has had a dominant year, which was also reflected in the recent Henley Boat races, relocated to Dorney Lake, Eton, due to the weather conditions, which saw Cambridge win all of the lightweight races except the women’s reserve 4+’s.
Whilst today will not be looked back on as a classic with fairly one-sided racing, it was a fitting end to a year that has hinted throughout that the Thames would flow Light Blue. It remains to be seen if this is the start of a drought for Oxford or if they can turn it around next year.