Well, it’s been a while since I last posted an entry on this blog….but it’s been the off-season!
Anyway, spring has sprung, which means it’s nearly Boat Race time. So with the official weigh-in and crew announcement I thought I would caste my critical eye over the respective men’s and women’s crews seat by seat.
To start with, the men’s Blue Boats
For Oxford: Storm Uru
Nationality: New Zealand
Uru is one of the most outstanding lightweight scullers in the world. After winning the B final of the LM2X with Peter Taylor in Beijing this pairing have never failed to reach the podium at the world championships including a gold in 2009 and took bronze behind Denmark and Great Britain in London. He is almost the perfect bow-man, light, nimble, huge power-to-weight ratio and excellent technique. At the weigh-in he tipped the scales at just over 80kg, so he’s obviously been using his time at Oxford to bulk up a bit!
For Cambridge: Mike Thorp
In terms of the Boat Race, Thorp is the most experienced oarsman in the race. This will be his 5th time racing from Putney to Mortlake, he’s raced twice for Goldie (winning in 2010 and losing last year) and twice in the Blue Boat (losing in 2011 and winning in the disrupted race of 2012). Outside of his Boat Race experience Mike won gold GB at the Coupe de La Jeunesse in 2006. The Boat Race experience that Thorp brings to the race will be absolutely vital, things can get rough and ready over the course and it takes a cool head to maintain the rhythm when the blades and water is flying!
For Oxford: Chris Fairweather
Fairweather was part of the outstanding Isis crew of 2012 which broke the record for the reserve race in 16.41. This year he makes the step up into the Blue Boat and has formed a dynamic bow pair partnership with Uru. It’s a mark of the strength of this Oxford boat that Fairweather is the least experienced of the crew.
For Cambridge:Luke Juckett
Juckett is a post-graduate from Wisconsin. He raced for the University of Wisconsin Varsity eight in the 2009-10 season placing 15th at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships (IRA’s). In his Freshman year the Wisconsin Bears made the Grand Final of their event at the 2009 IRA’s.
For Oxford: Karl Hudspith
Assuming Karl gets to the end of the Fulham Wall on April 6th, it will mark his 4th Blue, winning in 2011 and 2013. In 2012 he was President of OUBC and was denied a “race to remember” by the actions of Trenton Oldfield. Hudspith is an outstanding talent. In 2013 he raced for GB in the M2- at the Eton Dorney World Cup winning the “B” Final. This season he has been racing at the GB trials. At the first trials in November he finished an outstanding 4th in the 1X, unfortunately he was beaten by team mate Constantine Louloudis and the two Oxford men had a bet that the loser at those trials will get a tattoo! Hudspith will be getting his shortly after this year’s race! At the 2nd GB trials he and Louloudis formed a 2- and finished 3rd. I fully expect Hudspith to play a part in the GB senior squad at Rio and beyond (if he wants to)!
For Cambridge: Ivo Dawkins
One of 3 men in the Cambridge boat over 2 meters tall, Dawkins is one of the least experienced oarsman in the race. But there is a lot of raw talent in that big frame. He raced for Goldie at the British Rowing Championships helping them to a 4th place finish in the “C” final.
For Oxford: Thomas Swartz
Another lightweight who has put on the kilo’s for the Blue Boat. Swartz was part of the outstanding Yale Bulldogs Lightweight 8 that won the IRA championships in 2011. Some might argue he is a bit on the small side to occupy the big engine room no.4 seat but Bowden is a master at getting his crew compositions right and Swartz is an outstanding racer.
For Cambridge: Steve Dudek (President)
Winning his third Blue, Dudek has tasted both victory and defeat in this race.This year he moves back from the 6 seat he occupied in 2012 and 2013. Another post-grad he was a crewmate of Luke Juckett at Wisconsin he only started rowing when at University in the States having been a very talented football player at High School. As President he has taken on the extra responsibilities of that office and will be instrumental in motivating the Light Blues to bounce back from their defeat last year. His task will be very had this year as the Dark Blues have a far more experienced line-up.
For Oxford: Malcolm Howard (President)
The oldest and heaviest man in the race, Howard is also the most decorated of all the oarsmen in the race. He occupied the 5 seat in the Canadian 8 that won a spectacular gold at the Beijing Olympics and again in the silver medal winning crew at London 2012. He also has Senior World Championship experience dating back to 2004 and has a trophy cabinet that includes 5 world championship medals (including gold from in 2007). He’s one of a very select few of Blues who already has two Olympic medals whilst rowing for the University. All-in-all a truly outstanding oarsman. As President he’s overseeing potentially one of the best Oxford crews for a very long time.
For Cambridge: Helge Grujten
The tallest man in the race at 204cm (6ft 8), Gruetjen was part of the Goldie crew in 2013 that narrowly lost to Isis by 1/3 length in a truly epic race. This year he takes a seat in the Blue Boat. A post graduate (one of 6 in the Cambridge boat) he has previously studied at the University of Duisberg and the Chicago University. He has nowhere near the experience of his opposite number in the Oxford boat, he’s a big, big man with a big, big engine.
For Oxford: Michael DiSanto
Yet another Oxford oarsman with senior world championship experience. DiSanto raced in the M2- at the 2013 World Championships in South Korea finishing 13th. One of three Harvard graduates in the Oxford boat (along with Howard and 7 seat Sam O’Connor). DiSanto was part of the Crimson crew that won the Ladies Plate at Henley in 2010 and 2012 and was 2nd to the Washington Huskies at the IRA’s in 2011. The shortest rower in the race he is, nevertheless, a very powerful oarsman and a dynamic racer.
For Cambridge: Matthew Jackson
Educated at “The School By The Sea” – Tabor Academy in Massachusetts, Jackson is another US graduate, this time from the University of Pennsylvania. He rowed in the Varsity 8 for Penn in the 2012-13 season where they finished 13th at the IRA’s and 12th in the Championship 8’s at the Head of the Charles.
For Oxford: Sam O’Connor
Nationality: New Zealand
The 2nd Kiwi in the Oxford boat (and the 3rd Harvard graduate), O’Connor wins his 2nd Blue having been in the victorious Oxford boat last year. He’s a former world Junior champion from 2006 and played a key part in some very successful Harvard crews racing in the varsity boat in 2010 and 2012 (winning the Ladies Plate in both years with team mate DiSanto). Not particularly tall or heavy he’s got an outstanding pedigree and is a very able 7 man.
For Cambridge: Joshua Hooper
The only Australian in the race, Hooper was another member of the 2013 Goldie crew involved in the epic 1/3 length defeat to Oxford last year. A graduate of Monash University and educated at the top Aussie rowing school, Melbourne Grammar. He is, however, relatively inexperienced to fill the vital 7 seat.
For Oxford: Constantine Louloudis
Stan is one of the most outstanding oarsman of his generation and will be looking for his 3rd victory in the Boat Race. A brilliant, natural stroke man he occupied that seat whilst at Eton and led one of the finest schoolboy eights I have ever seen in 2010 (a crew that won the Princess Elizabeth at Henley and was very competitive against national U23 crews) he stepped into the GB 8 at the Olympics following a season blighted by injury and led the crew on a massive challenge for the gold medal eventually coming away with bronze. A junior and U23 world champion, winner of the 1st GB trials this season he has massive potential to play a critical part in Great Britain’s efforts at the Rio Olympics.
For Cambridge:Henry Hoffstot
A graduate of Georgetown University he stroked the Georgetown Alumni crew (racing as Taurus) that won the Britannia Challenge Cup at Henley. As a Freshman at Georgetown he was part of the crew that came 5th at the Eastern Sprints in 2009. Another Cambridge man that doesn’t have the same pedigree as his opposite number in the dark blue boat, but is still a highly talented and powerful oarsman.
For Oxford: Laurence Harvey
Last year’s Isis cox, Harvey will need all his Tideway experience in this year’s Blue Boat. He has a massive engine at his disposal but he must make sure he gets the most out of it by putting his boat in the right place and calling the race. Last year’s Isis v Goldie race went all the way to the wire and that gives the young Monmouth man invaluable experience.
For Cambridge: Ian Middleton
The battle between the coxswains is going to be fascinating and is always one of the intriguing aspects of this idiosyncratic race. Despite his tender years (he’s the youngest man in the race) he has a wealth of coxing experience. Whilst at Abingdon School he coxed the 1st VIII to a record equaling 3rd consecutive victory in the Princess Elizabeth at Henley Regatta. He then went on to cos the GB junior 8 at the world championships, just missing out on a medal. He will need to be inch perfect on the tideway if his men are to have any hope of challenging for the victory.
So those are the men’s crews….who do I think will win? It’ll be a very, very brave man who bets against an Oxford crew with such an outstanding pedigree. On paper this looks to be one of the most outstanding Blue Boats for a very long time. In the first of the warm up fixtures Cambridge dispatched a Leander development 8 and Oxford simply destroyed a talented U23 German national crew. But, neither of these fixtures really “told” us anything about the two crews. They both need far sterner tests to show whet their true speed is like. Hopefully these will come when Cambridge take on Molesey and Oxford Leander. I’m hoping that these crews will be the top boats from the respective clubs containing their GB oarsman….we shall see.
The Boat Race is a weird and wonderful thing and pedigree on paper doesn’t always translate to victory on the day. But so far Oxford are looking very, very impressive….I’m going to pick a dark blue victory (by quite a few lengths).
The Women’s race will follow soon…..