Yesterday saw the formal launch of the 2016 Boat Race with the official Presidents Challenge. This is where last year’s losing President challenges the President of last year’s winning crew to race. With the formal challenge accepted it means that the respective squads have also been announced. So I thought I’d have a look at the men’s and women’s squads and give a bit of an early form guide.
It’s worth mentioning that the first chance we get to see the squads go head-to-head is the Fullers Head of the River Fours on November 7th and it’s always fascinating to see them race on the Championship course.
So, what do the squads look like….first off the women:
Last year’s crew was totally dominant and were an outstanding outfit. The dark Blue’s experienced strokewoman, Carryn Davies, has left but they do have 5 returning Blues – Maddy Badcott, Anastasia Chitty, Nadine Graedel-Iberg, Shelley Pearson & Lauren Kedar. With more half of last year’s crew back for more that’s a good lump of experience for chief coach Christine Wilson to play with. As well as the 5 returning Blues Oxford have 2 members of last year’s victorious Osiris boat hoping to make the step up – Georgie Daniell, Estonia’s Elo Luik along with 2014 Osiris member Chloe Farrar.
Of the new members of the squad there are a number of athletes with experience of the US collegiate rowing system. South Africa’s Jessica Glennie was at Texas, Emma Lukasiewicz of Canada rowed for Harvard Radcliffe, American Samatha Olyha was at Cornell and Germany’s Isabell Von Loga has rowed for both Princeton and Imperial College.
Oxford have two senior Internationals in the squad with Joanne Jansen from the Netherlands and GB’s Morgan Baynham-Williams. Jansen raced in the LW2X at the 2013 European Championships and Baynham-Williams coxed the GB W8 at the 2015 European Championships.
Overall Oxford’s stats are:
4 USA (although Shelley Pearson is listed as Bermudan she has raced for the US)
1 Italian, South African, Swiss, Dutch, Estonian, Canadian and German
Average age: 22
Last year’s Blue Boat was an accomplished University crew, they had the misfortune of coming up against a truly outstanding Oxford boat. Will the 2016 iteration have better luck?
Head coach Rob Baker has 4 returning Blues – Fanny Belais (a French U23 international), Ashton Brown (a Canadian U23 international) Daphne Martschenko (an American U23 international) and cox Rosemary Ostfeld. There are also a couple of lightweight Blues moving up to openweight – Fiona Macklin from the losing 2014 lightweight crew and Kirsten Von Fossen who raced to a remarkable 3ft win in this year’s race. Von Fossen (a former Harvard Radcliffe rower) is having an exciting year as she has been nominated for the World Rowing Parmigiani Spirit Award. There is also one returner from the 2015 Blondie crew, Hannah Roberts.
Of their new squad members there are a few with international university experience to their credit – Frenchwoman Myriam Goudet won bronze at the World University Championships with Imperial College and Thea Zabell won gold with Cambridge at the European University Championships.
Cambridge also have their fair share of new overseas students, Americans Kate Barker (a Princeton graduate) and Caroline Habjan (Syracuse) Nicole Abernathy of Canada and Barbora Janulikova of the Czech Republic who previously studied at Vienna University.
Average age: 22
The two squads have already had a head to head match up with both Universities racing at the British Championships. On this occasion it was the light Blues who garnered the bragging rights when they finished 2nd to Imperial College with Oxford 2 seconds back in 4th.
Both squads have entered the Fuller Head of the River Fours (which I’ll be writing a preview of closer to the time), Cambridge have 5 boats entered, 3 Elite 4- and 2 Elite 4+. Oxford have 3 crews a IM1 4X and two IM1 4+. Whilst this means the two squads aren’t competing in the same event their relative finishing positions will be under a lot of scrutiny.
Last year’s crew suffered a big defeat to a superb Oxford boat, their 3rd loss in a row. This year they have four of that crew back for another go – Americans Ben Ruble, Henry Hoffstot and Luke Juckett and the cox from last year, GB’s Ian Middleton. Chief Coach Steve Trapmore also has 5 of last year’s Goldie crew aiming for the top boat Ali Abassi, Clemens Auersperg, Felix Newman, Hugo Ramambason and Piers Kasas.
Last year’s isis v Goldie race was a remarkable event with Isis coming from a clear water deficit to run out winners by 3 lengths. That will have left a very sour taste in the Goldie oarsmen’s mouths and they’ll be desperate to put it right in the Blue Boat this time around.
Of the new squad members the most notable is probably Lance Tredell. As well as winning the Ladies Plate at Henley in 2013 he raced as part of the GB 2nd 8 at the Lucerne world Cup in that year. Tredell is one of 3 senior Internationals in the Cambridge squad with Clemens Auersperg having raced for Austria at this year’s World Championships and Henry Hoffstot racing for the US in 2014.
Another new boy into the squad this season is Australian Alister Taylor. He’s no stranger to the Championship course having spent a number of years rowing for Tideway Scullers (whose boat house overlooks the Boat Race finish). Should he win selection, the Melbourne University graduate will become the oldest rower ever to have raced at the age of 38 years and 1 month.
Also joining the squad this year is Vincent Bertram, the American becomes the 3rd Wisconsin graduate in the squad (along with Blues Luke Juckett and Ben Ruble)
1 Aussie, Austrian, French, German
Average age: 23
Sean Bowden has only 2 returning Blues from last year’s exceptional crew, James Cook and Will Geffen. But, he also has 7 of last year’s victorious Isis boat, and they are a group with a wealth of international representative honours to their names:
Charlie Thurston – an Etonian who won silver in the JM4+ in 2014
Josh Bugajski – who raced in the U23 M4X for GB in 2012
Morgan Gerlak – A Brown University graduate who was in the US U23 M4- in 2013
Sam Collier – cox of the 2013 GB JM4+
Other Isis returners are Norwegian Jorgen Tveit, Brit David Grant, and 2014 Isis crew members Joe Dawson and Nik Hazell. 2011 Lightweight Blue Sam Albanie is back at Oxford and at 82kg definitely no longer a lightweight.
Other new members of the squad are Michal Blok who has represented Slovakia and the European Junior championships, James White who sculled for GB at the World Junior Championships and George Mckirdy who raced at the World University Championships with Nottingham Uni. The squad also has a few US graduates with James Saraidarides from Brown and Thomas Phifer of Middlebury College.
There are also a number of young British oarsmen who have raced at the Coupe de La Jeunesse – Dominic Parr from St Pauls, Guy Arnold from Westminster and Charlie Buchanan from KCS Wimbledon.
1 Norwegian, Slovakian, New Zealander & 1 Dutch
Average age: 23
So, Oxford have a much bigger squad to draw on than Cambridge (35 v 25). Cambridge have more senior international experience but to my eyes Oxford have the greater depth. Cambridge have already shown some good form this season with an excellent performance in Men’s Champ 4’s at the Head of the Charles in Boston last weekend. The crew of Lance Tredell, Ben Ruble, Henry Hoffstot, Luke Juckett and cox Ian Middleton finished 2nd by just 1 second over the 4.8km course to a US squad crew containing two of the US M8 from this year’s World Championships. It’s clear from this four that this will be the heart of the Blue Boat for Trapmore. Both squads are racing at the Fullers Head of the River Fours with the Light Blues racing as Goldie with 3 Elite 4+ 1 IM1 4- and 1 IM1 4+. The Dark Blues, racing as Isis, will go head to head in the Elite 4+ with 4 boats entered plus 1 Elite 4- and one Senior 4-.
Overall, for both the men’s and women’s races there’s no obvious favourite (unlike the 2015 race). So it’s going to be very interesting to see how the two universities race at the Fuller Head of the River Fours and how they develop through the season.