What’s it like to watch your brother row for the ‘enemy’? Who better to ask than former blues and brothers Damian and Kieran West. Damian rowed for Oxford in 1996 while Kieran represented Cambridge in 1999, 2001, 2006 and 2007.
What was it like watching your brother compete for Cambridge in the Boat Race?
Damian: “On the day it was fine. Of course I wanted Kieran to win and I think this was helped by the fact that I didn’t know anyone in the Oxford crews he raced that well… The most difficult time was when he lost – I had a mixed feeling of pleasure that Oxford had won but also felt for him that he had lost.”
Kieran: “Although he had already established himself as a talented oarsman, the Boat Race was the biggest event in which he, or anyone in our family, had ever participated and I was extremely proud that he was a part of it. It’s often easier for the younger sibling to follow the elder, and watching him in the race made me believe the prospect of one day being there myself much more feasible.”
How did you feel supporting the ‘opposition’?
Kieran: “After years of supporting unknown Cambridge crews, the irony of having to support Oxford in my first year at Cambridge was not lost on me, but family always has to come first. Sitting with my university friends I didn’t really want to cheer for Oxford, so limited myself to cheering for my brother; I expect he repaid the favour a few years later. Still, I was pretty nervous before the race began, and completely gutted (Oxford lost) when it ended.”
What is your standout memory of competing in the Boat Race?
Damian: “The first was at the start when we were waiting on the stakeboat. There was this incredible cheering coming from the river banks and Putney Bridge. Then the umpire stood up and it all went deathly quiet – the change was dramatic and a pretty key indicator that the real business of the day was about to start! The other was at the finish. This was the incredible disappointment of losing followed immediately by floating under Chiswick Bridge with the other crew celebrating, knowing that millions of people were still watching us and wanting to be anywhere but there.”
Kieran: “All four experiences were completely different: the first was the best row and, at the time, my highest rowing honour, so it was the sweetest victory; the second was a long grind home after we broke away at St. Paul’s and I don’t think I’ve ever been so tired; the third was merely frustrating, as what had been a good race was over once we started shipping water; and the fourth was a relief that we had gained revenge for the previous year. Overall, it’s an awesome event, and I’m extremely proud that I had the opportunity to be a part of it for so long. The only question that would have been fun to answer is: what would it have been like to race my brother? All in all, it’s probably best that we never found out…”
Find out where the West brothers recommend for watching the boat race on our interactive Boat Race map.