The Final Challenge

Seat-racing and formal crew selection continued at our new year’s training camp in Temple-sur-Lot.

A sleepy town east of Bordeaux, it has one convenience store which only sells wine, baguettes, cheese and biscuits; the standard French cuisine it seems. The river is as wide as the Tideway, but there is little flow because it is dammed. Unlike the sharp bends at Wallingford, we could row straight for 20km here without turning.

Off the water the boredom of the town began to wear us down and by day three we were reduced to surfing Facebook most of the day. The nightly quizzes chaired by Pat, our boatman and resident entertainer, provided the other source of excitement.

In desperation to create more entertainment, we began playing mini basketball for our warm-ups. Tom Solesbury confused his sports and tackled people as if it were a rugby match. People were twisting ankles and receiving elbows in the face, but loving every minute. Coach Sean Bowden looked terrified that half the squad would have season-ending injuries and so normal warm-ups resumed.

By the end of the camp, a Blue boat and Isis boat began to emerge, bringing a subtle shift in mood. With selections almost over, people are more relaxed, cooperative and friendly; more like a team. Up to now, it’s been a weird balancing act, which is unique to Boat Race squads – you compete intensely against others, who could be your team mates the next day.

After time away, it is good to return to Oxford. The remaining days of our campaign will be our greatest challenge. We will be tested to raise our rowing game to the highest level, while balancing our academic work. But that’s why the Boat Race is such a great event.

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