Women’s Boat Race Trial Eights
The Newton Women’s Boat Race Trial Eights took place on the Tideway on Tuesday December 9, with strong winds greeting both races along the second half of the Putney to Mortlake course.
A key step in Oxford and Cambridge’s preparations before the Boat Race on 11 April, the Trial Eights is the only chance the rowers have to race the full Championship Course side-by-side before race day. Each boat club fields two evenly matched crews which race against each other, enabling coaches to see how their squads cope with the pressure.
Oxford University Women’s Boat Club raced first at 13:15, with crews ‘Real Life’ versus ‘Fantasy’. Real Life on Middlesex were quicker through the first few strokes and took an early lead of three seats to the Town Buoy and a length after the first bend. But Real Life was warned by Umpire Simon Harris with the crews then moving under Hammersmith Bridge, bringing Surrey crew Fantasy back to within a few seats. However, the margin was maintained around the outside of the Surrey Bend at half a length.
Conditions changed at the Eyot, but it was past the Bandstand before the first sight of open water between the crews. With the upcoming bend at Barnes Bridge to Middlesex’s favour, Real Life look set to move on to victory and defeated Fantasy by three lengths.
Commenting on the race, Coach Christine Wilson said: “Today the crews pushed each other to know the course and to take risks when a racing opportunity presents itself. While Real Life ultimately dominated despite some questionable steering, I suspect Fantasy carried with them the hopes of many rowing fans beyond those in the crew.”
At 14:30, the second of the races saw Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club’s Trial Eights between ‘Rise’ and ‘Grind’.
Rise on Surrey moved ahead quickly off the start, slower through the rates than Grind taking half a length inside the first 20 strokes. Grind held the higher rate but by Fulham Football Club Rise’s lead became a length.
As the race progressed, Rise steadily moved away from their opposition with a more effective race rhythm. Two lengths at Hammersmith Bridge became three lengths by Chiswick Steps. The headwind proved to be much stronger for Cambridge’s race and although the wind eased slightly after Barnes, by this stage the damage was done. Rise held a commanding lead over Grind eventually winning by over five lengths.
Afterwards Rob Baker, Head Coach at CUWBC said: “Our two crews had shown to be of a similar speed coming to the Tideway but Rise was able to make the most out of the training in the last few days and produced a convincing win on the day over Grind.
“Whilst I would have liked a closer race I saw some excellent performances and we have certainly made progress in finding fast combinations that I can take forward and look at Blue Boat and Blondie combinations in the New Year.”