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.