The Boat Race – review

I, like over 7 million other people in the UK watched the Boat Race on tele and I know everyone is talking about Luke Juckett’s crab


But as unfortunate as it was I think it’s distracting from what was an outstanding Oxford crew. If I’m brutally honest the result of the race was decided back in October when the squads were announced. Oxford had such a wealth of experience at their disposal that it was going to take something truly exceptional for Cambridge to upset the odds, or a monumental cock-up from Sean Bowden, at the Oxford coach does not make cock-ups.

In the run up to the race I said that Cambridge’s only chance was to throw the kitchen sink at Oxford in the first 5 minutes, and so it proved. I was pleasantly surprised that Cambridge led approaching the town buoy, but there was the feeling that Cambridge had thrown everything into that 5 minute start. Oxford had absorbed that punch and began to turn the screw taking 1/3 length within 30 seconds. Then there was the clash. In Boat Race terms it was minor…a light tap, but it flipped the blade in Jucketts hand so that it went into the water on the feather….and that’s never going to end well. It was frankly amazing that the Cambridge 2 man stayed on board. Not too many people catch a crab that actually gets their head in the water, and recover to continue the race.

So what was the impact of the crab? I don’t think it influenced the outcome, just the verdict. At the time of the crab Oxford were beginning to turn the screw and I expected them to draw clear to probably a length at Hammersmith and to steadily pull away to win by 4-5 lengths minimum.

It was disappointing for Cambridge not to be able to compete at their best for the full course, but that’s the Boat Race I guess. It could have easily been Oxford who broke a blade, as indeed they did in 2012


So all in all it’s been quite a year for Oxford. In the 6 races this year (Men’s & women’s Blue Boats, Reserves, & lightweights) the light blues only took one victory (The men’s Lightweights by 3 1/2 lengths). The question is, can they turn this around? A lot of the Oxford “Big Guns” will be moving on whereas Cambridge have a great ability to identify and build talent. Obviously it depends who turns up at the respective Universities next season (for both the men’s and women’s squads). But it is the nature of the race to have “runs of success”. Indeed the noughties have been an unusual period with no University winning more than 2 years in a row. Compare this to the 1990’s where Cambridge won 7 in a row and between 1977 and 1992 where Cambridge only won once.

2015 is going to be fascinating. How will Cambridge bounce back from a devastating race? Both the Blue Boat and Goldie were obliterated. It will take a massive effort to revitalise the Light Blue Boat Club. But the most interesting thing for 2015 is the arrival of the Women’s Boat Race to the Championship course. Whatever else happens in the 2015 Boat Race, this fact alone will make it a fascinating year.




3 thoughts on “The Boat Race – review

  1. David Hoier

    From a purely commercial point of view sports competitions need a close contest – both television coverage and sponsors generate the best returns on their investment by retaining public interest until (at least near) the end of the match-up. It may be that it is a good thing the average ‘non-rowing’ viewer this year will think that Cambridge lost because of the clash/crab – although the commentary did it ‘s best to warn them Oxford were heavy favourites anyway. The picture on the front page of the Times highlighted the point at which Luke Juckett’s head was nearest the water. I would suspect many of the 7 million (non-rowers) got up from their TV at that point to go make a cup of tea or take the dog for a walk – game being over so to speak. What I am trying to say is that if indeed the event’s outcome was decided in October last year then (again from a purely commercial angle) that is a problem for the Boat Race Company Limited representing all the interested parties. They have a vested interest in attempting a more balanced ‘draft’ of incoming non-UK post-graduate rowers. In rowing there just isn’t the opportunity for a ‘giant-killing’ act such as a ‘Ronnie Radford’ wonder-goal moment in the FA Cup (for those of you too young to remember this was the 1972 FA Cup Hereford United v. Newcastle) so it is more important than ever there isn’t a mismatch before the start. Of course it depends upon what the Boat Race actually is. It is a sports event between two crews of university students who have chosen to row as their leisure activity or is it a pathway to (or gentle retreat from) international rowing at Olympic and World level. Next year’s Boat Race(s) have a lot to deliver as TV coverage is vital for the promotion of rowing in a very crowded sporting programme. Two events (men’s and women’s) which turn out to be processions will not cut the mustard.

    1. fatsculler Post author

      What everyone needs to remember is that if the TV coverage stopped tomorrow, if the sponsorship money was withdrawn, the race would still take place. It’s not done to entertain the public. This is a private match between two universities that just happens to generate public interest.


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