As part of their preparations for the 2017 University Boat Race, Oxford take on their neighbours, Oxford Brookes University, on Sunday over the Championship course in London. To those of us who follow the machinations of the Boat Race, this has the makings (on paper at least) to be one of the most eagerly awaited contests for years. Brookes are the fastest University crew in the country at the moment (and possibly one of the fastest in Europe). A few weeks ago they raced the provisional Cambridge Blue Boat and won one of the pieces comfortably (the other being declared a draw).
The Brookes crew contains eight of the crew that won the Temple Challenge Cup last year and all but stroke man James Stanhope have won representative honours for Great Britain at U23 level (and in the case of bowman Jamie Copus, senior level). They are a well-established and well drilled crew, and will give Oxford a really stern test.
So, who’s been named in the Dark Blue boat (not in seat order);
Vas is one of three Abingdon School alumni named in the Oxford boat. He raced for GB as a junior and went on to study at Boston University in America winning bronze in the Junior Varsity event at the Eastern Sprints. In 2013 he won the Thames Cup at Henley with the Griffen Boat Club.
Another Abingdon School old boy, Cook was the non-travelling spare for the GB Olympic team in 2016. Last year he teamed up with Callum McBrierty and Henry Fieldman to win gold in the M2+ at the World Championships. He describes himself as the “perennial spare for the GB team”. Once his Oxford days are over he should be able to cement himself a permanent spot on the national team.
Younger brother to Oliver and the third Abingdon alumni, Jamie is a returning Blue having won in 2015 and lost in 2016. He raced for the GB U23 team between 2012-2104 and in 2013 made his senior debut at the Eton World Cup. In 2012 he won the Prince Albert Challenge Cup at Henley with the University of London.
Another returning Blue, Bugajski raced for Great Britain at the 2012 U23 World Championships. A graduate of Cardiff University, he’s represented Wales at the Home International Regatta, winning gold in the M1X in 2015.
This year’s Oxford President, DiSanto already has two Blue’s to his credit with wins in 2014 and 2015. He took time away from his studies in 2016 to row for the US national team racing in the 6 seat of the US M8 at the Rio Olympics.
The 2nd Rio Olympian in the Oxford crew, Siegelaar rowed in the Dutch M8 that took bronze. For Siegelaar Rio was his 3rd Olympics – making him one of the most experienced athletes ever to race for Oxford. A graduate of the University of California, Berkeley with whom he won the IRA Championships in 2012. He’s also the oldest, tallest and heaviest man in the Oxford boat.
Warr has already won a Blue, albeit in Cambridge colours. He was part of the losing Light Blue boat in 2015. He’s raced for GB at U23 level, just missing a medal in the M4+ in 2014. He’s also raced in the Senior GB M8 at the EON Hanse Cup and won the Ladies Plate at Henley with what was, in effect, the GB 2nd 8 (although I got told off for calling it that when I was commentating for Regatta Radio 😉 )
The 2nd American in the crew, O’Leary is an experienced senior international having raced for the USA in the LM8 in 2014 and the LM4X in 2015. Whilst at Harvard he won the Lightweight Varsity 8’s at the IRA Championships and was co-captain in the 2012 boat that went undefeated all season.
Sam Collier (cox)
Collier coxed Isis in 2015 and was the Blue Boat cox in 2015. A Hampton School old boy, Collier coxed the GB Junior M4+ at the World Championships in 2013.
So that’s the provisional Blue Boat. It’s a very impressive line-up, possibly the strongest Oxford crew since 2013 (which included the likes of Stan Louloudis, Malcolm Howard, Karl Hudspith, Sam O’Connor and Paul Bennett). It’s a testament to the strength of the Oxford crew that two of last year’s Blue Boat (James White and Jorgen Tveit) miss out. Also missing out are 2015 Lightweight world Champion Claas Mertens and Washington Huskies alumni Dusan Milovanovic.
The race v Brookes should be an epic. Oxford look to have a huge amount of experience and firepower whereas Brookes are a well-established and very talented unit. If I have to call the result, I’m going to go with a Dark Blue win by a length or so. It’s going to be good!