Now onto the women’s crews. So far this century, Cambridge have won just 4 races and last year was their first since the race moved to the Championship course. The Light Blue’s President, Daphne Martschenko has four Blues returning (three from last year’s crew and one from 2016). But, somewhat unusually the President herself isn’t in the crew. For the Dark Blues there is only one returning Blue and President Katherine Erickson is one of a number of rowers who learnt their craft at Oxford.
Name: Patricia Smith
A member of the winning Cambridge Lightweight crew in 2015, Smith makes the move up to the open-weight Blue Boat this season. She competed at the GB Trials last month, finishing 10th in the W2- with Emma Andrews.
Name: Renee Koolschijn
A graduate of the University of Groningen and now reading for a DPhil in Biomedical Imaging, Koolschijn started rowing at Oxford and is the Kit Officer at Oriel College.
Verdict: Advantage Cambridge. Smith as good experience from the Lightweight race and has produced solid results in the GB trials.
Name: Imogen Grant
The lightest woman in the race (less than 3 kg heavier than the Cambridge Cox). Grant is a highly experienced Boat Race competitor. She raced in the Lightweight Boat Race in 2016 (losing by just a canvas) and then moved up to the Blue Boat in 2017, helping the Light Blues to their first victory since 2012. She followed up her win in the Boat Race with her international debut for Great Britain, racing at the U23 World Championships finishing 5th in the BLW4X. She competed at the 1st GB Assessment taking an excellent 2nd place in the LW1X.
Name: Katherine Erickson (President)
The Oxford President is a relative novice when it comes to rowing. Despite being an undergraduate at one of the top US rowing universities, Stanford, she only picked up an oar when she arrived at Oxford to read for her DPhil in History. But, she’s no stranger to top level sport, having represented the US in Eventing at U18 and U21 level. She was a trialist for the Lightweight boat before moving to the open-weight squad in 2016 and was a member of the losing Osiris crew.
Verdict: Advantage Cambridge. Despite giving away 10kg to her Dark Blue rival, Grant of Cambridge is a highly experienced Boat Race competitor and could well add to her international experience this year.
Name: Kelsey Barolak
A graduate of Harvard, Barolak rowed in the Varsity 8 during her Sophmore and Junior years winning gold at the EARC Sprints. She has trialed for the US U23 team and has now come up to Cambridge to read for an MPhil in Psychology & Education.
Name: Juliette Perry
Like her President, Perry didn’t start to row until she went up to Oxford to read Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Somerville. But, she’s made outstanding progress to go from complete novice to a seat in the Blue Boat in less than 2 years.
Verdict: Advantage Cambridge again. Whilst Perry is making great strides she loses out to the more experienced Barolak – who spent her career at Harvard in side-by-side match racing.
Name: Thea Zabell
A member of the losing 2016 (remembered for struggling to the finish despite almost completely swamped). She didn’t compete in the Boat Race in 2017 but did race at the GB trials and won a seat in the GB U23 W8 and went on to make the A Final at the U23 World Championships in Plovdiv.
Name: Alice Roberts
The only returning Blue in the Oxford Boat, Roberts is also the youngest member of the Dark Blue boat (and the youngest in the women’s race). An Oxford local, she was educated at Cheney School in the city and took up rowing when the school first introduced the sport in 2012.
Verdict: Advantage Cambridge. Both have losing Boat Race experience, but it’s more likely that Zabell will gain a winning Blue. She’s another talented athlete at the start of a promising international career.
Name: Paula Wesselmann
The German is a graduate of Clemson University in South Carolina. She rowed in the Varsity 8 throughout her 4 years at Clemson winning a bronze medal at the ACC Championships in her Freshman year. As a junior she won a number of medals at the German Championships and the Baltic Cup.
Name: Morgan McGovern
At 30 years of age McGovern is the oldest athlete in the race. She’s also the only member of the Oxford boat with senior international experience, at the Rotterdam World Championships in 2016 she finished 5th in the LW4X. A graduate of Georgetown University she was also US National Champion in the LW1X in 2015 and won the LW2X at the Head of the Charles in the same year.
Verdict: Advantage to Oxford – McGovern’s international experience edges her ahead of the talented young German.
Name: Alice White
The third returning Blue, White made her international debut for GB in 2015 winning a bronze medal in the W8 at the U23 World Championships. Born in New Zealand, she studied for her undergraduate degree at UCLA rowing in the Varsity 8 throughout her 4 year course. She was a member of the winning Cambridge 4+ at the Head of the River Fours in November. Now at Homerton College she is reading for a PhD in Clinical Neurosciences.
Name: Sara Kushma
The 3rd American in the Oxford boat, Kushma went to school at the American School in London before going back to the US for her undergraduate studies at Princeton. Whilst at Princeton she won gold in the Varsity IV at the EAWRC Championships and also took gold in the 2V at the Ivy Sprints.
Verdict: Another seat where Cambridge have the advantage. Not only is White a returning victorious Blue she’s also an athlete with a strong international pedigree.
Name: Myriam Goudet-Boukhtami
The fourth Blue returning for the Light Blues, Goudet-Boukhtami has tasted both victory and defeat having been a member of the 2016 and 2017 crews. Now set to win her third Blue, the Frenchwoman is an experienced international. She made her debut as a junior in 2005 and then her senior debut at the European Championships in 2009 – finishing 6th in the FRA W8. She raced at the Europeans again in 2010 and then was a member of the W4X that narrowly missed qualification for the London Olympics when finishing 3rd at the Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta. A graduate of University Paul Sabatier Toulouse III and Imperial College, London, she is now reading for a PhD in Plant Sciences at Lucy Cavendish College.
Name: Abigail Killen
Another athlete who learnt to row at Oxford, Killen was a member of the OUWBC development squad in 2016 and raced for the University in the Intermediate Academic 8’s at Henley Women’s Regatta, reaching the final before losing out narrowly to Newcastle University. Now studying for a DPhil in Physiology, Anatomy & Genetics, she’s been given the task of filling the all-important 7 seat.
Verdict: Another clear advantage to Cambridge. Goudet-Boukhtami is a seasoned International and Boat Race campaigner.
Name: Olivia Coffey
The most decorated of all the athletes in both the women’s and men’s Blue Boats. Coffey is a two-time senior World Champion having won the W4- in 2013 and the W4X in 2015. She also has a senior world bronze from the W4X in 2014 and several World Cup medals. She made her international debut in 2009 and raced for the US U23 team from 2009-2011 winning gold, silver and bronze as a member of the W8. A graduate of Harvard, she raced in the Varsity 8 throughout her four years and in her Senior year stroked Harvard-Radcliffe to a first win in 8 years against in the Case Cup against Yale.
Name: Beth Bridgman
Another product of the Oxford University Women’s Development squad, Bridgman raced for Osiris in 2017 going down to a 13 length defeat to Blondie. As a member of the OUWBC development squad she was a crewmate of Killen’s in the Intermediate W8 that made the final at Henley women’s Regatta in 2016.
Verdict: Cambridge clearly have the advantage in this seat. Coffey is an outstanding stroke and is highly experienced in match racing.
Name: Sophie Shapter
Shapter learnt her craft at London Rowing Club where she earned the nickname of “DaBoss” and with whom she’s made a number of appearances at Henley royal Regatta. A native of Putney she will know the idiosyncrasies of the Championship Course better than most.
Name: Jessica Buck
Buck studied Biomedical Science at the University of Newcastle in her native Australia and is now embarked on a DPhil in oncology and is engaged in ground-breaking cancer research. She’s of Aboriginal descent (Kamilaroi nation) and is (I think) the first Aboriginal to compete in the Boat Race. She learned her coxing at Green Templeton College.
Verdict: with her extensive local knowledge this is a clear advantage to Cambridge.
On paper Cambridge have the advantage in all but one seat, and, so far the performances on the water have backed this up. Cambridge have produced some excellent results with wins at the Head of the River Fours, Quintin Head and a comprehensive victory over the University of London. But, Andy Nelder’s Oxford have begun to show form at just the right time with a good performance against Oxford Brookes last weekend. It’ll be really interesting to see Cambridge take on the same Brookes crew this weekend – that’ll give us the first real chance to compare the relative speeds of the two boats. But, Cambridge will be heading into the final weeks of preparation as the clear favourites. My instinct says that Cambridge will win and win comfortably.