Meet Iain Mandale, President of Oxford University Boat Club

After racing in the Oxford reserve crew Isis in 2013, 2014 and 2015, OUBC President Iain Mandale has won a seat in the Blue Boat for the 2018 Cancer Research UK Boat Race on 24 March

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Iain Mandale OUBC President (c) Christopher Lee

With three reserve Boat Races under his belt, Iain Mandale can draw on plenty of experience on race day. Martin Gough finds out more

MG: What were your experiences of the Boat Race and the hoopla that surrounds it before you first arrived at Oxford?
IM: I rowed at [Kingston Grammar] school, so my group of friends were very aware of the Boat Race and its place in the sporting calendar. We had a particular interest in my last few years at school, as an alumnus [Ben Myers in 2011] was racing as president of Oxford. Our usual Boat Race experience was getting the bus in to Putney for the day to hang out on the river bank for a 15-second view of the race.

How does it feel racing in the reserve event with all the Boat Race hype and TV around you?
It is an exciting experience. On race day the crowds are already gathered, there’s a helicopter hovering above you, crowds jeer at you as you’re sitting on the start line; it’s broadly similar to the Blue Boat race, but probably toned down a little.

You know you’re not being watched on live television, which takes some of the pressure off, however you’re still about to have 17 minutes which determine whether the last seven months of preparation were good enough.

On race day the crowds are already gathered, there’s a helicopter hovering above you, crowds jeer at you as you’re sitting on the start line

Is there anything about the TV coverage that makes life more difficult for you as an athlete?
As we approach the race, it’ll obviously become more of a factor, and keeping focused on preparation will be made harder by lots of different distractions, including interviews, etc. Being completely honest, I think most just try to avoid saying something they’ll later regret!

How important do you think your prior experience of the day will be as you lead this year’s crew?
Prior experience in an event as unique as the Boat Race is always going to be important. We’ve got some new athletes on the team this year, who are incredibly experienced rowers in their own right, but who aren’t necessarily familiar with the idiosyncrasies of this event.

We’ve got three guys on the team who have done three seasons with OUBC already, and a fantastically experienced coach in Sean Bowden, so having that knowledge in the group will be important in preparing the newer athletes for an unpredictable event.

This article first appeared in Rowing & Regatta magazine – find out how to subscribe here.