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Henley Women’s Regatta – The Championship events

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Next weekend is Henley Women’s Regatta – the premier regatta for women in the United Kingdom. This year’s event has attracted a record entry of 442 crews with entries from Australia, France, Germany, Mexico, Ireland, The Netherlands, New Zealand and the USA.

So, here is a look at the Championship events:

Championship 1X

17 scullers

Holder: Lucy Glover Warrington Rowing Club

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Scullers from clubs in the UK, Australia and the Netherlands race for the George Innes Cup. The favourite will probably by Imogen Grant of Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club. She rowed in the winning Light Blue Boat at this year’s Boat Race. She also performed extremely well at the GB Final Trials finishing 4th in the LW1X. That performance earned her selection as the LW1X for the GB team racing at the 1st World Cup in Belgrade where she finished just outside of the medals.

Imogen Grant

Imogen Grant

Grant is joined in this event by fellow 2018 Cambridge Blue, Tricia Smith. Smith, like Grant is both a lightweight and open-weight Cambridge Blue. She raced at the GB trials in February finishing 10th in the W2-. Up against these two Light Blues is 2018 Oxford University President Katherine Erickson. Erickson learnt to row at Oxford and has shown good speed in the single finishing 6th in Champ singles at the BUCS regatta.

Another Boat Race oarswoman is Elo Luik. The first Estonian to row in the Boat Race in 2016, she will be representing Molesey Boat Club at Henley. At the Metropolitan Regatta last month she finished 5th on Saturday and 3rd on Sunday.

Runner-up on both days of the Metropolitan Regatta was Katy Wilkinson-Feller of Tideway Scullers. She raced in the TSS 1st 8 that finished 10th at the Eight’s Head and has performed well at the GB National Team Assessments finishing 5th at the 1st Assessment in November and then placing 7th overall at the Scullers Head.

Another strong contender is Wallingford Rowing Club’s Christie Duff. The Oxford Brooke’s graduate won a gold medal in the W8 at the European University championships and placed 2nd at the Scullers Head.

A sculler with senior international experience under her belt is Diana Egerton-Warburton. The 41 year old raced for Israel at the 2014 Lucerne World Cup finishing 16th in the W2X. She’s no stranger to the Henley course having raced in the W2X in 2015 for Union Nautique Bruxelles. In 2018 she competes for Thames Rowing Club.

There are four overseas competitors in this event, 3 Australians and 1 Dutch. The Aussies are Cara Grzeskowiak of Capital Lakes Rowing Club and Carina Simpson and Fiona Ewing of Sydney University. Grzeskowiak raced for Australia at the U23 World Championships in 2015 finishing 5th and also took bronze in the W1X at the Australian Interstate Championships that year behind Kim Brennan and Kerry Hoare. Simpson rowed for Sydney at the Australian Boat Race and was in the Australian University 8 that raced in the Trans-Tasman series. Fiona Ewing raced in the U23 W8 that finished 5th at the World Championships in 2016 and was the U23 national champion in 2016.

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Cara Grzeskowiak of Capital Lakes Rowing Club

The Dutch representative is Nienke Van Hoogenhuyze racing for Triton. She represented the Netherlands at the Lucerne World Cup in 2014 where she finished 5th in the LW1X.

Another young sculler to watch is 20 year-old Bryony Lawrence of Gloucester Hartpury. She was 4th in the JW4- at the 2016 World Championships and finished runner-up at this year’s BUCS regatta.

Also racing are Imogen North of Nottingham, a silver medallist at the European University Championships, Jordan Cole-Hossain from Thames, GB Trialist Oluwasen Olusanya of Exeter University, Katinka Hurst of Worcester University who made the semi-final in the W2X last year and finally Thames Tradesmen’s Phoebe Campbell, a silver medallist at the British Championships in 2016.

 

Championship W2X

11 doubles racing for the W. Peer Cup.

Holders: Mackie/Grant CUWBC/Oxford Brookes

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Favourites for this event would probably be the University of London/Edinburgh University composite of Charlotte Hodgkins-Byrne and Lucy Glover. However Glover has just been named in the GB W2X for the 2nd World Cup in Linz, Austria, and as this is the same weekend as Henley Women’s it is likely they will have scratched.

In their absence it becomes a very open field. One of the most interesting entries is from Headington School with Rio Olympic silver medallist Katie Greves partnering young Swiss talent, Mattea Wuethrich. The 19 year old raced at the junior World Championships last season finishing 12th in the JW1X. They won Challenge W2X at Wallingford Regatta and are targeting not just Henley Women’s Regatta but also The Stonor Challenge Trophy at Henley Royal.

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Katie Greves (bow) and Mattea Wuethrich (stroke) of Headington School. Photo: Ben Rodford Photography

Reading University are always strong in women’s sculling, and have two boats racing in this event. The first is Lucy Ryan and Chloe Knight. Lucy won bronze at the European Universities Championships and Chloe has trialed for the GB squad, this duo were 3rd on the Sunday at the Metropolitan Regatta. The 2nd Reading Uni boat is Anna Smart and Francesca Bratt. They were both part of the Reading W4X that finished 4th at the Metropolitan Regatta.

Another strong contender will be the Leander pairing of Anna Porteous and Katie Maitland. Both of these athletes are US educated, with Porteous a graduate of the University of Washington (where she stroked the Varsity 4+ to win the PAC-12 championships) and Maitland a graduate of Duke University in North Carolina (where she raced in the Varsity 8). This duo have little domestic form as a double to go on but have a strong pedigree.

Cambridge also have two crews racing with the no.1 boat of Paula Wesselmann and Emma Andrews. Wesselmann was in the winning Blue Boat this year and Andrews was in the victorious Blondie crew. The 2nd Cambridge boat sees Abigail Parker and Sally O’Brien team up. Neither athlete made the Blue Boat or Blondie but they have a strong pedigree, Parker (daughter of the legendary Harvard coach, Harry Parker) was a member of the Harvard Radcliffe Varsity 8 and O’Brien is a former captain of the University of Dublin Women’s crew.

The final crew to mention are Nottingham Rowing Club with Annie Campbell-Orde and Sophie Connolly. This duo were bronze medallists at Ghent Regatta.

 

Championship 2-

The Redgrave Vase

Holders: Banks Rowing Club Australia

9 pairs.

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An all-British line-up, with the lead boat probably being the Leander crew of Natasha Harris-White and Laura Meridew. They were winners at Ghent both in the W2- and W8. Harris-White raced at the Final GB trials finishing 9th overall and Meridew made the final of Senior Sculls at last year’s Henley Women’s Regatta.

Another strong crew are the composite from the University of London and the Queens University, Belfast – Oonagh Cousins and Fiona Bell. Both have represented Great Britain at the U23 World Championships with Cousins finishing 6th in the BW4- and Bell had the same finish in the BW8.

Imperial are another crew to watch with Alex Stonehill and Joanna Thom. These two were the bow pair of a very strong W8 at the Head of the River that finished 3rd. This season, as a W2- they have a 5th place at the Metropolitan Regatta.

Cambridge University have one crew entered, Sarah Carlotti and Rebecca Dell. Both were members of this year’s Boat Race squad. They were part of the Cambridge crew that won Championship 4+ at the BUCS Regatta.

Finishing one place ahead of the Light Blues at the Metropolitan Regatta was the Newcastle University pairing of Kat Bulmer and Lizzie Fuller.

Worcester Rowing club pairing of Elizabeth Johnston and Caroline Sheppard were members of the Senior W4- that reached the quarter-finals at Henley last year. At the Metropolitan regatta this year they were runners up in the Tier 3 W2-

Winners of the T3 W2- at the Met were the crew from Maidstone Invicta of Windsor and O’Brien.

Tideway Sculler’s Eleanor Peebles and Bethan Walters raced in the Tier 2 pairs and the Metropolitan Regatta finishing 4th.

The final crew racing are the youngsters from Lady Eleanor Holles School, sisters Gemma and Katherine King. They won bronze at the National School’s Regatta and finished 5th in the Tier 2 pairs at the Met.

 

Championship W4-

The Avril Vellacott Cup

Holders: Leander Club

9 crews

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This event has three overseas crew, two from Aviron Grenoblois of France and one from Yale University in the USA.

Leander have a strong combination to defend their title. Bayly Camp, a kiwi and graduate of Oregon State. Chloe Laverack rowed in the 2017 Oxford Blue Boat and is a graduate of Northeastern University. Flo Donald raced at the Junior World’s in 2017 finishing 7th in the JW4-. The final member of the crew is Rachel Heap, who finished 7th in the JW2- at last year’s Junior Worlds. At the Metropolitan Regatta they took 2nd in the Champ W4- by half a second to the University of London.

That win for UL will fill them with confidence for Henley, the crew of Alessandra French, Georgia Statham, Fi Gannon and Izzie Powell. French, Statham and Powell were all in the GB U23 W8 that finished 6th at the World Championships last year and Gannon has two appearances for GB at the Junior World Championships. This crew also won at the BUCS Regatta year.

Yale always have strong, powerful crews and this year’s 4 have a very international line-up with an American, a Canadian, an Australian and a Brit. American Meg Galloway, Aussie Sophie Deans and Brit Katie King-Smith were members of the 2V that finished 6th at the NCAA Championships. The 4th member of the crew is Claire Dirks from Canada who raced in the Varsity 4 that also came 6th at the NCAA’s.

3rd at the Metropolitan Regatta was the crew from Edinburgh University, India Somerside, Lauren Gray, Lydia Currie and Alex Rankin. Somerside & Rankin raced at the Junior World’s finishing 4th in the JW4- in 2016, Gray raced with Edinburgh at the European University Championships in 2016 winning gold.

Molesey will be confident of doing well in this event. They have an experienced crew of Emma Macdonald, Katie Bartlett, Lucy Primmer and Rebecca Edwards. Bartlett was a member of the GB U23 W8 that won silver in 2014 and bronze in 2015, she and Edwards finished 8th at the final GB Trials and as a four they won at Ghent International Regatta (pushing Leander into 2nd). They also recorded a win at Ratzeburg Regatta defeating a German composite crew in 2nd and Oxford Brookes into 3rd.

The two Grenoble crews from France are a bit of an unknown quantity although the “A” crew of Lea Duret, Maraux Segrais, Marlene Mangeolle & Nadia Berger have all won medals at the French National Championships.

Cambridge University’s crew includes Blue Kelsey Barolak and Blondie oarswomen Millie Perrin, Larkin Sayre and Laura Foster. This crew finished 5th at BUCS (with Lucy Pike rowing in place of Larkin Sayre).

The final crew to mention are Oxford Brookes, Ella Morgan, Sophia Heath, Susannah Dear and Zoe Taylor. This boat finished 3rd at BUCS and as mentioned above, finished 3rd behind Molesey at the Ratzeburg Regatta.

 

Championship W4X

The Borne Cup

Holders: no race in 2017 – Leander club won in 2016

7 crews

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Leander have another strong crew to defend the title they won in 2016. Georgia Brayshaw, Zoe Adamson, Sarah Bowyer & Ruth Siddorn. This quartet won in Ghent and have a wealth of experience, Zoe Adamson won the JW2X World title in 2017 and Ruth Siddorn was a member of the Oxford Boat that won the Boat Race in 2016.

The main threat to Leander will most likely come from Newcastle University, Amy Bowman, Nicole Lamb, Lola Anderson & Frances Russell. They are the reigning BUCS champions and finished 3rd at the Metropolitan Regatta. The University of London will also be strong contenders, Robyn Hart-Winks, Hattie Orr, Sheyi Blackett & Kesiah Roe. Hart-Winks raced in the LW4X at the World Championships last season and half of this crew were in the quad that finished 2nd at BUCS.

Runners-up to Leander at Ghent were Oxford Brookes, Imogen Mackie, Mary Wilson, Annabel Stevens & Emily Herridge. Mackie raced in the U23 BLW4X in 2017 finishing 5th, Wilson raced in the same boat the year before and Stevens won a silver medal at the Junior Worlds in 2016. Herridge raced with Brookes at the European University Championships.

There is one foreign entry in this event with the Germans from Bremer Ruderverein, Levke Gill, Katharina Borms, Laura Preiss & Mara Weber. Gill and Borms raced in the W4X at Ratzeburg and finished 6th 22 seconds behind Oxford Brookes. Priess raced in the German U23 W8 in 2016 that finished 6th.

Bremer may be the only fully overseas crew but there is also a Swiss/London composite racing as London RC & Club D’Aviron Vesenaz. This is an exciting-looking crew with a wealth of international talent, Pauline Delacroix has raced internationally for Switzerland for a number of years, she’s an U23 medallist and has a best finish of 4th in the LW2X at the Lucerne World Cup last year. She ended the season with a 14th place at the World Championships. Joining Delacroix in the crew is Cambridge Blue Fanny Belais, London Rowing Club’s Meghann Jackson (winner of the Elite 1x at the Sculler’s Head and 6th in the W1X at the Met) and Catherine Ador who raced for UL at the European University Rowing Championships.

The final crew to mention are Thames, Suzi Perry, Pippa Whittaker, Natalie Hardy and Alex Styles. This crew were winners at Wallingford Regatta and runners-up on the Sunday of the Metropolitan Regatta. They also raced at Ghent finishing 1 place behind Brookes in 3rd.

 

Championship 8’s

The Ron Needs Cup

Holders: Ohio State University

8 crews

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An event dominated by US collegiate crews with no fewer than 6 of the 8 entries coming from the US. Both Yale and Iowa Universities have entered two crews. Yale’s “B” crew look the strongest with all but one member of the Varsity 8 racing that finished 2nd at the Ivy League Championships (with Frenchwoman Victoire Lienau replacing Eloise Von Der Schulenburg). The Yale “A” Crew is a mix of athletes who raced in the 1st and 2nd Varsity 4’s and the 2nd Varsity 8. The two Yale boats include a couple of rowers, Kate Horvat and Lily Lindsay, who will be going up to Cambridge next term and will be aiming to make the Blue Boat for the 2019 Boat Race).

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Yale Varsity at the NCAA Championships (photo: Ahsan Iqbal)

Drexel University from Philadelphia have brought their full Varsity 8 line-up and are coming off an impressive domestic season that saw them finish 4th at the Dad Vails and take bronze at the Colonial Athletic Association Championships. They kick off their UK tour by racing at the Reading Amateur Regatta this weekend.

Iowa University, the Hawkeyes, also have their full Varsity crew racing (and like Yale they are racing as the Iowa “B” Crew at Henley). They took bronze at the Big 10 championships (behind Ohio State and Michigan) and they finished their domestic season with 11th place at the NCAA Championships (2 places behind Yale).  The Iowa “A” crew is the 2V that won bronze at the Big Ten Championships and then 12th at the NCAA’s.

Rhode Island University – the Rhody’s – are one of the less well-known of the US Collegiate programmes (at least outside of the US). The highlight of their 2018 season was a win at the Atlantic 10 Championships. They went on to race at the NCAA’s finishing 21st overall.

The two British boats racing are both composites with the first being Edinburgh/Molesey/Tideway Scullers and the 2nd Durham/Leander/Marlow/UL/Plymouth/Bristol. This latter boat is the GB U23 W8 and includes U23 silver medallist Chloe Brew and Junior World Champion Holly Dunford.

The Edinburgh/Molesey/TSS composite is a strong club composite including the likes of Gabby Rodriguez and Molly Harding from Molesey who were both GB Trialists this season.

 

Championship Lightweight 1X

The Godfrey Rowsports Cup

Holder: Maddie Arlett Edinburgh University

7 scullers

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An all GB line-up in this event and 6 of the 7 scullers have either competed or trialled for the GB team. The pick of the pack in terms of experience is Flo Pickles from Reading Rowing Club. She has three U23 appearances to her credit with a best place finish of 4th in the BLW4X in 2015, she also has a bronze medal from the 2014 Junior World Championships. So far this season she placed 10th in the final GB Trials and took 2nd at the BUCS Regatta.

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Flo Pickles

Amelia Carlton of Tideway Scullers is having a strong season, the winner of LW1X at the Scullers Head of the River, she finished an excellent 4th at the 1st GB Trials. She already has a Henley win to her credit having won the Senior 4X last year.

 

Fiona Chestnutt of Newcastle University finished 9th at the final GB Trials and finished 3rd in the LW4X at BUCS.

Camilla Plumb from Peterborough is another GB trialist having finished 18th at the 3rd Assessment and was a semi-finalist in this event last season.

Bethany Meakin from Oxford Brookes won gold in the LW4X at BUCS this season and also finished 8th in the 1st GB Team Assessment and 21st in the 3rd.

Lucy Iball of Grosvenor represented her native Wales at the Home International regatta in 2016 and also trialed for GB finishing 9th at the 1St Assessment. She was part of the Grosvenor quad that reached the semi-finals at Henley in 2016.

The final contender is Ellie Watts, she was President of the Oxford University Women’s Lightweight club and raced in the 4 seat of the losing Blue Boat this year. The Oxford Lightweights raced at BUCS winning the LW8 ahead of Bristol & Exeter.

 

Championship LW2-

The Parkside Trophy

Holders: Lowenna Coad & Natalie Hardy Thames RC

5 crews

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The defending champion, Lowenna Coad of Thames Rowing club is back to try and retain her title. This year she is partnered by Ioana Casley who was a member of the 2018 Cambridge Lightweight squad. They raced at the Met regatta this season finishing 5th in Champ W2-.Their main challengers look likely to be Casley’s fellow Cambridge athletes Louise Brett and Jessica Godden. They were members of the reserve Boat Race crew this season and went on to represent Cambridge at the BUCS regatta winning gold in the LW2-.

5th at BUCS were the de Montford University pair of Muskett and Burley. 4th in the LW4X at BUCS were Durham University including athletes Saskia Devereux and Ashleigh Mason. Devereux (sister of U23 World Champion Sebastian) is a former Leander oarswoman and trialed for GB earlier this season finishing 14th at the 3rd Assessment. This duo raced open Tier 3 W2- at the Met and finished 5th.

The final crew racing are the Irish from Commercial Rowing Club, Hazell O’Neill and Ruth Morris. They also raced at the Metropolitan Regatta and finished 2nd in the Championship W2-. The Irish could be the real dark horses for this event.

 

Championship LW2X

The Haslam Trophy

Holders: Imogen Mackie & Imogen Grant Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club & Oxford University

3 crews

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Nottingham University were winners of LW2X at BUCS regatta this season, although they have made one change to that crew, with Lucy Gillbanks now being partnered by Nina Giambrone. This duo were part of the gold medal LW4X at the 2017 BUCS Regatta and went on to race at the European University Championships. At the 3rd GB Team Assessment Gillbanks finished 14th .They completed their warm-up for Henley with a win in W2X A at Reading amateur Regatta.

Exeter University’s Susannah Duncan and Danielle Semple were 6th at BUCS but are a very strong combination. Duncan has two Junior World Championship medals and two U23 A-Final appearances to her name so far. 19 year old Semple raced at the Junior World Championships last year finishing 4th in the JW4X. At the 3rd GB Assessment Semple finished 9th and Duncan 12th.

The 3rd crew racing are a club crew from Southampton Coalporters, Fowler & Dorks. They raced at Reading Amateur this weekend making the semi-final for the W2X C category.

 

 

 

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Some post Boat Race thoughts

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So that’s the Boat Races over for another year, and I must admit to a little bit of smugness that I called the correct result in all of the races, but to be honest in a two boat race it’s not that hard!

The women’s race went pretty much as expected. Right from the announcement of the various squads back in October it was clear that Rob Baker had a much stronger group to work with at Cambridge than Andy Nelder had at Oxford. It was perfectly possible to say then that, barring any disasters that Cambridge would be likely to win in March. On the day Oxford made a better contest of it than I was expecting but were no match for a very strong Cambridge outfit. Given the number of rowers in the Oxford boat that came through the Dark Blues development squad, or only learnt to row at Oxford there is encouraging signs that they are building a strong pathway, but it will take time and they still need to attract high quality candidates to study at Oxford that can lead and inspire those coming through the development programme.

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Cambridge leading Oxford passed Harrods in the Women’s Boat Race. Photo: BoatRace.org

The Women’s Boat Race is crying out for a close contest, since moving to the Tideway in 2015 (and all the associated media coverage), there has been huge disparities between the crews with margins of victory of 6 ½ lengths, 24 lengths, 11 lengths and 7 lengths, Compare that to the men’s race which has only seen margins over 6 lengths 7 times since 1980. To the connoisseur this is no bad thing, we can enjoy the high quality rowing that a dominant crew can display, but, for the casual observer it becomes boring and can lead to harsh and unfair criticism of the crews and the event. But, the Universities can only work with the talent they have and perhaps it’s not too surprising to see big margins when one squad is so much stronger than the other. I just hope next year we get a close(r) race!

Speaking of close races, I had been expecting one in the Men’s race, so the ease with which Cambridge demolished Oxford came as something of a surprise and, if I’m honest, a bit of a disappointment.  In my previews I’d been predicting that this could be one of the closest races for years. Unlike the Women’s squads, the Men’s looked pretty evenly matched with some strong talent across the groups. The pre-race fixtures also hinted at two crews that were of similar speed. But, Oxford went through a huge upheaval in the week before the race with Josh Bugajski being dropped and 5 further changes to the seating order being made just a week before the race. A lot has been said about why Bugajski was dropped, the official line is that it had a bout of gastroenteritis and Aldous was brought in to cover. Bowden (and the rest of the crew) felt that the boat “was going fine” so they decided to keep Aldous in the crew. Bowden has since admitted that there were a number of disagreements between him and Bugajski (who don’t forget had 2 Blue Boat and 1 Isis appearances under his belt and was also the heaviest and most powerful member of the squad). So perhaps Bowden was looking for an excuse to drop what he saw as a potentially disruptive influence. For his part Bugajski made it plain that he was fully fit by attending the GB 2K trials and posting a sub-5:50 score. So, come race day Bowden’s decision to radically alter his crew would either be seen as inspired or desperate, unfortunately for the Dark Blue supporters it was the latter. Cambridge took the lead within the first few strokes and the race was effectively over as a competitive contest by the end of the Fulham Wall.

The resulting 3 length victory flatters Oxford somewhat, Cambridge perhaps should’ve won by more. But it is a great send off for Chief Coach Steve Trapmore who leaves Cambridge after being in charge for 8 races with a record of 3 & 5. But, crucially a number of the races that his crews lost were to significantly stronger Oxford squads, when he’s had a strong group to work with he’s produced winning crews and crews that row exceptionally well. He’s a much, much better coach than he sometimes is credited and it’ll be fascinating to see him develop at British Rowing.

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Cambridge Chief Coach Steve Trapmore.

In the reserve races it also pretty much went according to the script. Blondie for Cambridge were an outstanding boat and (as I said in my preview) were probably stronger than a number of the Blue Boats in the past, indeed there could be a case to say that this year’s Blondie crew were actually faster than the Oxford Blue Boat (it certainly would’ve been an interesting contest to see).

 

In the men’s reserves race Isis were always going to be on the back foot as the disruption to the Blue Boat also meant disruption to their line-up as they had to reshuffle to replace Aldous. But it still promised to be a competitive race. In the end Goldie dominated the race, taking 5 seconds off Isis by the Mile Post and then 2 more seconds by the finish. For Goldie this was their first win in 8 years and just their 2nd win in 11 races.

Add the lightweight Boat Races into the mix and you have a completely dominant display for the Light Blues, with Cambridge having won both Lightweight races and the men’s Lightweight reserves. Only the women’s Lightweight reserves race and the Veterans Boat Race went the way of the Dark Blues. This is the first time since 1993 that the Light Blues have won the Heavy and Lightweight Boat Races and both the Men’s and Women’s reserves races.

So Cambridge can end the campaign with champagne and celebration, and we wait to see who will take over from Trapmore, but for Oxford they have to lick their wounds and wait to see what the 2019 campaign will bring them.

The Boat Race reserve crews

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This week saw the formal announcement of the Oxford and Cambridge Reserve crews. Isis and Osiris for Oxford and Goldie and Blondie for Cambridge. Often the reserve races are more exciting than the Blue Boats, so I thought I would have a brief look at the crews.

First of all the women’s race, Osiris v Blondie

Blondie are the defending champions having won last year by 13 lengths. This year they have a crew that looks stronger than some Blue Boats. Leading the way is the Cambridge President, Daphne Martschenko sitting in the 5 seat. The Stanford graduate was a Blue in both 2016 and 2017 with one win and one loss. She’s also represented the US at the U23 World Championships in 2012 and 2014.  The other standout member of the crew is Germany’s Anne Beenken. When I first looked at the prospective squads last autumn I felt that she was a very strong contender for a seat in the Blue Boat. She won the JW1X World Championships in 2011 and 2012 and went on to win a medal at U23 level in 2014 and also represented Germany in the W1X at the Senior World Championships. It’s a mark of the strength in depth of the Cambridge squad that a senior international is “only” in the reserves.

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CUWBC President Daphne Martschenko

The crew also includes a couple of athletes with US Collegiate rowing experience, Larkin Sayre is a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and was a member of their Varsity 8 that finished 3rd at the Patriot League Championships. The 2nd crew member with US experience is Laura Foster, she raced in the 2nd Varsity boat at Michigan. At stroke and bow are two Brits who raced together at the 1st GB National team assessment finishing a strong 6th, Amelia Perrin and Pippa Dakin. The final 2 members of the crew are Lucy Pike, who was a member of the winning Blondie crews of 2016 and 2017, and Putney High School alumni Emma Andrews.

Oxford’s reserves, Osiris, are much less experienced than their Light Blue rivals.  The most experienced member of the crew is coxswain Eleanor Shearer who steered last year’s Blue Boat. Sitting in the 2 seat is Rachel Anderson who was a member of the Lightweight Blue Boat in 2017 and now moves up to the openweight squad.  The crew also includes New Zealander Sarah Payne-Riches, who, at 41, becomes the oldest ever competitor in the Boat Race (men’s or women’s). She’s reading for a DPhil in Primary Care Health Sciences and is no stranger to the Tideway having previously studied at Imperial College. The crew contains one US athlete, Maddy Goss, the Texas University graduate stroked the 2nd Varsity 4+ to victory at the 2017 Big 12 Championships. The Osiris crew is a testament to the Oxford policy of identifying and developing talent. A number of the crew have come through the development squad or only started rowing at Oxford.

Blondie definitely look to have the edge on paper, they have competed publically a number of times (most recently at the women’s Head of the River where they finished a strong 8th. They are also a feisty crew, in a recent battle-paddle against the Blue Boat they were not averse to clashing and giving their top boat a hard time. For my money this has the makings of an easy win for the Light Blues.

 

Now onto the men’s reserves, Isis and Goldie.

There’s been a certain amount of drama in the Oxford camp this week with the news that two-time Blue Josh Bugajski was being replaced by Benedict Aldous from Isis. Rumours abound as to the cause of this change. The official statement was that this was done due to illness. However, Bugajski has clearly recovered from his illness as he was well enough to attend the GB 2K erg trial this week where he’s reported to have posted a sub-5:50 2K….Reading between the lines it would appear that Bugajski was ill and was replaced by Aldous but upon his return to fitness he was told he would be in Isis and refused. Another, more scurrilous, rumour is that he lost his seat for “disciplinary reasons”. The man himself has, so far, stayed silent on the issue, we will probably have to wait until after the race to hear the full story.

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Josh Bugajski – out of the Oxford squad after losing his seat in the Blue Boat

What this means is that, not only is the Blue Boat swapped around, but so is Isis. The crew is stroked by Tom Commins who also stroked the winning Isis boat in 2016. He’s backed up by teenage world junior medallist, Luke Robinson with Ben Bathurst at 6. Bathurst rowed for GB at the World University Championships in 2010. Nick Elkington of KCS Wimbledon is at 5 with former junior international Alex Whythe at 4 (he steps up from the spare pair to replace Aldous). At 3 is the most experienced member of the crew, American Chris Wales, He was a member of the Harvard Lightweight 2nd Varsity crew and represented the USA at the U23 World Championships in 2014. In the bows are Charlie Buchanan who raced for GB at the Coupe de La Juenesse and Italian Jonathan Ezio Olandi at bow.

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Piers Kasas – set for his 3rd appearance for Goldie

Goldie are stroked by Piers Kasas who is set to make his 3rd appearance in the reserves having raced in 2015 and 2016. He’s backed up in the 7 seat by callum Sullivan, another athlete who has raced for GB at the Coupe de La Juenesse. At 6 is the only foreign athlete in the Goldie boat, the 6ft 7 American Gerard Kuenning. The Yale graduate was a member of the Bulldogs 2V crew that finished 8th at the Eastern Sprints. At 5 is Tom Strudwick, a member of the 2017 Goldie crew and European U23 silver medallist. Behind Strudwick is another athlete set to make his 3rd appearance for the reserves, Peter Rees. At 4 is the oldest athlete in the men’s reserves race, 31 year old Dave Bell. The Molesey stalwart has competed in the Diamonds at Henley and has numerous wins at the major domestic regattas, he’s also trialled for the GB team with a best performance of 4th at the 2016 February assessment. At 2 is 20 year old Reggie Mitchell who was selected for the GB junior team but missed out due to injury. Finally at bow is 19 year old Robert Harris from Abingdon School.

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Isis take the lead ahead of Goldie in the 2017 Reserve Boat Race (photo: OUBC)

Isis have won 9 of the last 10 reserve races (Goldie’s sole win coming in 2010). But, this year Goldie definitely look to have the stronger boat, and with Isis’s preparations being upset with the loss of their strongest crew member to the Blue Boat, their task just became even more difficult. I’ve a feeling Steve Trapmore will finish his career as Chief Coach at Cambridge with a win for both his Blue Boat and Goldie.

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The Oxford and Cambridge reserves (photo The Boat Race.org)

A festival of Heads!

This week sees a veritable festival of top class rowing events, both indoor and outdoor.

NIJRC

Kicking off the fun is the National Junior Indoor Rowing Championships. Organised by London Youth Rowing, the event at the Lee Valley Athletics Centre, is the World’s largest indoor rowing event with over 2500 young people aged from 11 to 18.  The event draws competitors from outside of the “traditional” rowing schools and clubs, over 60% of competitors are from a minority ethnic background and the organisers specifically cater for competitors with sensory, learning and physical disabilities.  As it says on the website “The event really does draw in those young people that would not normally get the opportunity to race at a national event”.

Next up, on Saturday, is the biggest women only sporting event in the world (I think), certainly the biggest women’s rowing race in the world – The women’s Eights Head of the River.

WEHORR

This sees 319 crews (over 2800 athletes) race over the 4 ½ mile Championship course from Mortlake to Putney. One of the most interesting battles amongst the 319 crews will be between Leander Club (starting 1st) at the Cambridge Blue Boat (starting immediately behind them).  Despite some illnesses and injuries, Leander have an impressive line-up which includes three members of the GB W8 (Fi Gammond, Karen Bennett & Holly Norton) along with senior internationals Rowan McKellar, Emily Carmichael and Hattie Taylor.

Starting in 3rd are Imperial College – this looks to be a formidable crew with three Rio Olympic medallists – Great Britain’s Dr Zoe Lee and Melanie Wilson from the silver medal W8 and Kiwi Rebecca Scown who took silver in the W2-. Starting 4th is the University of London, they also have an impressive line-up, with half of the GB U23 W8 that finished 6th last year (Alessandra French, Charlotte Hodgkins-Byrne, Georgia Statham & Isobel Powell) and U23 international Oonagh Cousins. Also in the crew are senior internationals Sara Parfett and Matilda Horn. A stronger line-up than that was well beaten by the Cambridge Blue Boat last month.

Starting in 5th are Molesey, with a crew that includes Irish international Claire McKeown and senior GB international Rebecca Girling. 6th are Oxford Brookes who lost narrowly to their neighbours Oxford University in a pre-Boat Race fixture last month. Staring 7th are the Cambridge reserves, Blondie, with Cambridge President Daphne Martschenko at 7 and senior German international, Anne Beenken at 5.Chasing Cambridge will be Edinburgh University who finished 2nd to UL at the recent BUCS Head of the River, their crew incudes U23 World Champion Lucy Glover. Starting no.9 is the first overseas crew, the juniors of CUS Milano of Italy, including junior internationals Laura Pagnoncelli, Nadine Agymang Heard (who turns 16 on Tuesday) and Vittoria Tonolli. Rounding out the top 10 are the Tideway Scullers School.

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The men get their turn to race on Sunday. For the first time in a long time the men’s head actually has fewer entries than the women’s, 313 crews are slated to start the race on Sunday morning. Last year Oxford Brookes took the headship for the first time in the club’s history and they will be strong favourites to retain the title. They are coming off wins against both the Oxford and Cambridge Blue Boats (something they’ve never achieved before). The crew is being further strengthened with the addition of some of their GB squad members like Matt Tarrant (although he quipped that given how well Brookes have been going recently he would “try not to slow them down”).

Chasing Brookes will be Leander Club. Normally the Pink Palace would start as clear favourites for the Head as the GB squad members return for one of the few opportunities to race in their club colours. However illness and injuries have blighted their preparations and the originally posted crews are being changed significantly. Leander were already without the services of Olympic champions Pete Reed and Will Satch and at the time of writing no formal announcement has been made about who will be racing in Leander colours.

Starting in 3rd place will be Thames, they lost narrowly to Isis last weekend. Brookes’ strength in depth is demonstrated by the fact they have 4 crews starting in the top 20, the Brookes 2nd 8 (starting 4th) will be strengthened by guys from the 1st 8 stepping down to make way for the GB Squad guys, so another top 5 or even top 3 finish is not impossible. Molesey (starting 6th) can usually call upon their own big guns from the GB squad, no more so than Mo Sbihi, but it remains to be seen if he is included in the crew. This race always attracts a good entry from overseas, although the 20 foreign entries this year is significantly lower than in previous years. Pick of the foreign entries are Stuttgarter 1899 from Germany (starting 22nd) and CVK Praha of the Czech Republic (starting 41st).

The racing doesn’t stop at the end of the weekend though, on Monday it’s time for the juniors to race the Championship course at the Schools Head of the River.

SHORR

Photo: Junior Rowing News

This has 356 8’s 4+’s and Quads racing from Mortlake to Putney. Junior Rowing News have done their usual comprehensive preview (they’re lads and lasses after my own heart!) So I won’t dwell too much on the entries, but among the boys 8’s it’ll be a major surprise is St Paul’s don’t take their first win since 2014. In the girls 8’s it’ll be another showdown between Headington and Henley – a rivalry that seems to have dominated junior girls rowing in this country for a number of years. In the boys quads Maidenhead look to be the form crew with Latymer Upper the ones to watch in the girls quads.

As if that wasn’t enough there’s yet more racing to be had on Tuesday with the “Oarsport Junior Sculling Head” otherwise known as “The Scullery”.

Scullery

This takes a slightly different format to other Head races, held on the Olympic course at Eton Dorney, it is 2x 1800m time trials, with the winner being the crew to post the fastest combined time. Many of the crews racing at the schools Head are also racing at the Scullery (indeed there may even be a few hardy fools that are racing the senior 8’s head, the Schools Head and the Scullery!)

The fact that these four on-water events are running on consecutive days is due mainly to the foibles of the tides, but it’s a really interesting experiment and has created, albeit unintentionally, a festival of rowing to mark the end of winter training.

Now we just have to hope that the weather gods play nice!

The Boat Race – Women’s crews

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Cambridge on their way to victory in 2017 (photo AOL.co.uk)

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.

 

Bow

Cambridge

Tricia-Smith

Tricia Smith

Name: Patricia Smith

Nationality: British

Age: 24

Height: 178cm

Weight: 70.3kg

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.

 

Oxford

Renae-Koolschijn-2-1

Renee Koolschijn

Name: Renee Koolschijn

Nationality: Dutch

Age: 28

Height: 180cm

Weight: 73.4kg

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.

 

2

Cambridge

Imogen Grant

Imogen Grant

Name: Imogen Grant

Nationality: British

Age: 22

Height: 168cm

Weight: 58.1kg

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.

 

Oxford

Erickson

Oxford’s President, Katherine Erickson

Name: Katherine Erickson (President)

Nationality: American

Age: 28

Height: 175cm

Weight: 69.6kg

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.

 

3

Cambridge

Barolak.jpg

Kelsey Barolak

Name: Kelsey Barolak

Nationality: American

Age: 22

Height: 182cm

Weight: 78.5kg

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.

 

Oxford

Juliette-Perry-2-1

Juliette Perry

Name: Juliette Perry

Nationality: British

Age: 21

Height: 176.5cm

Weight: 73.4kg

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.

 

4

Cambridge

Thea-Zabell-2

Thea Zabell

Name: Thea Zabell

Nationality: British

Age: 22

Height: 185cm

Weight: 77.5kg

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.

 

Oxford

Alice Roberts

Alice Roberts

Name: Alice Roberts

Nationality: British

Age: 19

Height: 169cm

Weight: 67kg

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.

 

5

Cambridge

Paula-Wesselmann-2

Paula Wesselmann

Name: Paula Wesselmann

Nationality: German

Age: 24

Height: 176cm

Weight: 67.3kg

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.

 

Oxford

Morgan-McGovern-2-1

Morgan McGovern

Name: Morgan McGovern

Nationality: American

Age: 30

Height: 175cm

Weight: 72.1kg

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.

 

6

Cambridge

white

Alice White

Name: Alice White

Nationality: British

Age: 25

Height: 177cm

Weight: 75.9kg

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.

 

Oxford

Sara-Kushma-3-1

Sara Kushma

Name: Sara Kushma

Nationality: American

Age: 26

Height: 178cm

Weight: 73.5kg

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.

 

7

Cambridge

goudet

Myriam Goudet-Boukhtami

Name: Myriam Goudet-Boukhtami

Nationality: French

Age: 29

Height: 183cm

Weight: 79.6kg

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.

 

Oxford

Abigal-Killen-2

Abigail Killen

Name: Abigail Killen

Nationality: British

Age: 26

Height: 175cm

Weight: 70.4kg

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.

 

Stroke

Cambridge

Olivia-Coffey-2

Olivia Coffey

Name: Olivia Coffey

Nationality: American

Age: 29

Height: 185cm

Weight: 76.6kg

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.

 

Oxford

Beth-Bridgman-2-1-470x470

Beth Bridgman

Name: Beth Bridgman

Nationality: British

Age: 20

Height: 178cm

Weight: 67.8kg

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.

 

Cox

Cambridge

Sophie-Shapter-2

Sophie Shapter – “DaBoss”

Name: Sophie Shapter

Nationality: British

Age: 23

Height: 164cm

Weight: 55.3kg

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.

 

Oxford

Jessica-Buck-2-1

Jessica Buck

Name: Jessica Buck

Nationality: Australian

Age: 27

Height: 153cm

Weight: 53.5kg

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.

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The Cambridge Blue Boat

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The Oxford Blue Boat (photo @OUWBCSquad)

The Men’s Boat Race Blue Boats

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With less than 4 weeks to go until the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Races the formalities of the crew announcement took place today. So that means it’s time for me to have a close look at the various crews that will represent the two Universities in one of the oldest annual sporting contest in the world and do a seat-by-seat comparison.

First of all the men’s crews.

 

Bow

Cambridge

Patrick-Elwood-2

Patrick Elwood (photo: Theboatrace.org)

Name: Patrick Elwood

Nationality: British

Age: 23

Height: 192cm

Weight: 85.3kg

Elwood learnt his rowing at Broxbourne Rowing Club in Essex. Reading for a PhD in Astrophysics he was a member of the losing Goldie crews in 2016 and 2017. Now he finally wins a seat in the Blue Boat and will be looking for his first victory over the Championship course.

 

Oxford

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Oxford’s President, Iain Mandale

Name: Iain Mandale (President)

Nationality: British

Age: 25

Height: 182cm

Weight: 75.1kg

The Oxford President already has three race wins to his credit racing for Isis in 2013-15. Now reading for an MBA he is set to win his first Blue.  He learnt his rowing at Kingston Grammar School and rowed for Great Britain at the U23 World Championships winning a silver medal in the BLM4- in 2014.

Verdict: a narrow advantage to Oxford, two members of the reserves now stepping up to the Blue Boat. Mandale has the edge with his three reserve wins and his international experience

 

2

Cambridge

Charles Fisher 3 CUBC

Charlie Fisher

Name: Charlie Fisher

Nationality: British

Age: 23

Height: 198cm

Weight: 90.7kg

A member of the winning 2016 Cambridge crew, Fisher missed out on a Blue last season and raced in the losing Goldie crew. He learnt to row at Kings’ College Wimbledon and represented Great Britain at the Coupe De La Jeunesse in 2012 winning a gold medal in the JM8.

 

Oxford

drinkall

Felix Drinkall

Name: Felix Drinkall

Nationality: British

Age: 18

Height: 196cm

Weight: 83.8kg

The youngest man in the race, and the only undergraduate in the Dark Blue boat, Drinkall is an outstanding young oarsman. The old-Etonian won a bronze medal at the junior world championships in 2016 in the JM8 and followed that up with a gold in the JM4- in 2017. At the first GB trial in November he and partner Tobias Schroeder took the overall win in the 5K time trial (14 seconds ahead of the fastest Cambridge pair).

Verdict: Fisher has greater experience of the Boat Race, which can be crucial in a tight race, but Drinkall is an outstanding young oarsman. I reckon this is even.

 

3

Cambridge

Dara-Alizadeh-2

Dara Alizadeh

Name: Dara Alizadeh

Nationality: American

Age: 24

Height: 192cm

Weight: 90.1kg

A graduate of Penn University, Alizadeh learnt to row at Belmont Hill School in Massachusetts. In 2015 he made his international debut racing for the USA in the M8 at the U23 World Championships coming away with a silver medal. He spent the 2017 season coaching and teaching Economics at Winchester College.

 

Oxford

William-Cahill-2

William Cahill

Name: William Cahill

Nationality: South African

Age: 25

Height: 183cm

Weight: 84.3kg

Cahill raced in the victorious Isis crew in 2017 and is a graduate of the University of Cape Town. He has international representative honours having raced for South Africa at the World University Games.

Verdict: A narrow advantage to Cambridge. Cahill of Oxford has the advantage of having raced over the Championship course last year as a reserve, but Alizadeh’s greater international experience just gives him the edge.

 

4

Cambridge

62-James-Letten

James Letten

Name: James Letten

Nationality: American

Age: 24

Height: 208cm

Weight: 106.5kg

The heaviest man in this year’s race and also the tallest man ever to row in the Boat Race, Letten is set to win his 2nd Blue having been a member of the losing Cambridge crew last year. The University of Wisconsin graduate represented the USA at the World University Games in 2013 sitting in the 5 seat of the M8 that finished 6th.

 

Oxford

Weiss

Anders Weiss 

Name: Anders Weiss

Nationality: American

Age: 25

Height: 195.5cm

Weight: 91.5kg

The most experienced man in the Oxford boat in terms of international experience, Weiss raced for the USA at the 2013 U23 World Championships winning a silver medal in the M8. He made his senior international debut at the Rio Olympic Games where he partnered Nareg Guregian to an 11th place finish in the M2-. He raced the same event at the Sarasota World Championships last season, this time partnered by Michael Colella, again taking 11th place. A “Walk-On” at Brown University he helped them to a strong 3rd place at the IRA Championships.

Verdict: In this battle of the Americans its advantage to the Dark Blues. Letten has the advantage of a Boat Race campaign already under his belt, but Weiss is a seasoned international which gives him the edge.

 

5

Cambridge

Spencer-Fury-2

Spencer Furey

Name: Spencer Furey

Nationality: American

Age: 24

Height: 193cm

Weight: 89.6kg

The 3rd American in the Cambridge boat, Furey is a graduate of Dartmouth College, New Hampshire. Whilst at the “Big Green” he stroked the Varsity 8 that finished 9th at the IRA Championships last year. Dartmouth also made the trip to Henley Royal Regatta last season to race in the Ladies Plate narrowly losing to the German U23’s from Bayer Leverkusen in the first round.

 

Oxford

Geffen

Will Geffen

Name: Will Geffen

Nationality: British

Age: 22

Height: 186cm

Weight: 87.2kg

Geffen is one of three returning Dark Blues, although he won his Blue as part of the outstanding Oxford boat of 2015. He also has a winning appearance with Isis in 2016. He learnt to row at Eton and in 2013 he raced for GB at the Junior World Championships finishing 6th in the JM4+.

 

Verdict: I’m going to call this as evens, Furey has the experience of  match racing from his days at Dartmouth, but Geffen already has one Boat Race win to his credit and knows what it takes to win.

 

6

Cambridge

Finn-Meeks-2

Finn Meeks

Name: Finn Meeks

Nationality: American

Age: 23

Height: 191cm

Weight: 87.3kg

The fourth member of the All-American engine-room of the Cambridge boat, Meeks was a crewmate of Alizadeh’s in the US U23 M8 that won silver in 2015. He was also a crewmate of Anders Weiss whilst at Brown. He sat in the bow seat of the Varsity eight in the 2014-15 season with Weiss in 5 seat that finished 4th at the IRA’s. He then went on to stroke the Brown varsity crew in 2016 and 2017 that made the IRA Grand Finals and last year raced in the Ladies Plate at Henley losing to the GB U23 crew (racing as Molesey & London) in the semi-finals.

 

Oxford

bugajski

Josh Bugajski

Name: Josh Bugajski

Nationality: British

Age: 27

Height: 194cm

Weight: 100.5kg

The heaviest man in the Oxford boat, and the 2nd of 3 returning Blues. Bugajski is set to win his 3rd Blue and has one win and one loss to his name.  He made his international debut for Great Britain at the U23 World Championships in 2012 finishing 11th in the BM4X. He’s competed at the recent GB Trials this season finishing 3rd in the M1X in the 1st Assessment, 9th in the M2- at the 2nd Trials and 7th at the 3rd Trials (partnering Matt Tarrant). He also rowed with Oxford Brookes at Henley last season winning the Ladies Plate. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Bugajski make his (long overdue) senior debut between now and the Tokyo Olympics.

Verdict: another really close battle with two outstanding oarsmen. But, with 2 Blues to his name the advantage is (just) with the Dark Blues.

 

7

Cambridge

Hurn

Rob Hurn

Name: Rob Hurn

Nationality: British

Age: 23

Height: 194cm

Weight: 86.5kg

Hurn started his rowing career in Australia and represented that nation at the Junior World Championships in 2012 and 2013. He attended Yale University reading Physics and was a member of the outstanding Varsity crew that won the Harvard-Yale race in 2015 and the Head of the Charles and the Ladies Plate at Henley in 2016. He made his debut for Great Britain in 2016 winning silver in the U23 M8 and another silver in the U23 M4- last year. He’s raced at the first 2 GB Senior Trials this season finishing 3rd in the M2- at the 2nd Assessment with fellow Yale oarsman Sholto Carnegie. He’s another oarsman who could well make his senior international debut during this Olympiad.

 

Oxford

Claas-Mertens-2

Claas Georrg Mertens

Name: Claas Georg Mertens

Nationality: German

Age: 26

Height: 180cm

Weight: 73.9kg

The smallest and lightest rower in the race (he’s actually 2cm shorter than the Dark Blue’s cox), the German made his international debut in 2012 with a bronze medal in the U23 LM4X. He followed this up by making his senior debut the same year with a 5th place in the LM4X. After finishing 12th in the BLM1X in 2013 he switched to sweep finishing 4th in the BLM4- and then won senior World Championship gold in the last ever LM8 race.

Verdict: yet another close thing. Hurn has age-group World Championship medals and was an integral part of the outstanding Yale Varsity boat. Mertens is a senior World Champion and has the tenacity and fight of an outstanding lightweight. I’m going to say Cambridge just have the edge.

 

Stroke

Davidson

Freddie Davidson

Cambridge

Name: Freddie Davidson

Nationality: British

Age: 19

Height: 189cm

Weight: 82.6kg

The youngest man in the Cambridge boat and Coach Steve Trapmore has entrusted him with the crucial stroke seat. Davidson is no stranger to the Boat Race having won a Blue in the 2 seat of the 2017 crew. He’s no stranger to the Tideway having learnt to row at St Pauls’ School. He’s one of the most outstanding young oarsmen in the country having made his international debut stroking the GB JM8 in 2015 and then winning a silver in the JM4- in 2016. In 2017 he stepped up to the British U23 team finishing 6th in the BM2-

 

Oxford

ragoussis

Vassilis Ragoussis

Name: Vassilis Ragoussis

Nationality: British

Age: 24

Height: 193cm

Weight: 88.2kg

The 3rd returning Blue, Ragoussis retains the seat he occupied for last year’s race. The former Abingdon School pupil studied for his undergraduate degree at Boston University in the USA. Whilst at Abingdon he won the Princess Elizabeth at Henley in 2011 and then the Thames Challenge Cup with the Abingdon alumni crew, Griffen, in 2013. Whilst at Boston he raced in the Varsity 8 in several match races including wins against Wisconsin, Dartmouth and Northeastern. At the 3rd GB Trials this season he partnered three-time Olympic champion, Pete Reed, finishing 14th.

Verdict: Ragoussis finished 9 places ahead of Davidson at the recent British trials and I think he will have the edge over his younger rival. The Oxford man also has experience of stroking a winning Blue Boat which could be crucial.

 

Cox

Cambridge

ramambason

Cambridge President Hugo Ramambason

Name: Hugo Ramambason (President)

Nationality: British

Age: 21

Height: 175cm

Weight: 55.3kg

This year’s President, Ramambason steered the Goldie crew in 2015 and 2016 and then stepped up to the Blue Boat in 2017. He’s yet to taste victory over the Championship course, but, along with Chief Coach Steve Trapmore, has constructed an excellent crew with a huge amount of potential, and one that could just deliver that first win.

 

Oxford

Zachary-Thomas-Johnson-2

Zachary Thomas Johnson

Name: Zachary Thomas Johnson

Nationality: British

Age: 21

Height: 182cm

Weight: 54.7kg

Captain of Coxes at Lady Margaret Hall, Thomas Johnson, reading Musicology, beat off Anna Carbery (cox of the Pembroke 1st 8) to secure the Blue Boat seat.

 

Verdict: A clear advantage to the Light Blues, with Ramambason already having significant Boat Race experience.

 

So, that’s the men’s crew. I’ve picked Oxford ahead in 4 seats with Cambridge ahead in 3 and 2 evens. By that reckoning the Dark Blues should have the edge, but, as a unit Cambridge look to be the stronger. Oxford’s defeat to their neighbours, Oxford Brookes, will not have done Coach Sean Bowden any favours. Cambridge take on Brookes this weekend and that will give a “proper” comparative assessment.  So, despite picking the Dark Blues just ahead in a seat-by-seat comparison, I’m going to go for a Light Blue victory. But, I think it could be very close, possibly one of the closest for many years.

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A look at the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race men’s squads

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Following the look at the Women’s Boat Race squads it’s now time to look at the men’s squads.

Whilst the 2018 Women’s squads are quite diverse in their relative levels of experience, the men’s squads look much closer. It was first blood to Steve Trapmore’s men at the Head of the River Fours when his Light Blues captured both the Band 1 and Band 2 coxed four’s pennants. The top Cambridge boat finished 13 seconds ahead of their Dark Blue rivals, but more importantly for Trapmore is that his crews also placed 3rd and 4th with the next Oxford boat finishing 6th. All was not doom and gloom for Bowden though, as his top coxless four finished 2nd behind Leander and 26 seconds ahead of their Cambridge opponents. So, who is in the mix for the Blue Boat in March?

 

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This year’s President is Hugo Ramambason, cox of the 2017 Blue Boat – he and Coach Steve Trapmore have an impressive line-up from which to build a crew, although this is the first crew since 2000 not to contain an athlete with senior international experience.

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This year’s Cambridge President, Hugo Ramambason

Some facts and figures:

Returning Blues: 4

Average age: 22

Nationalities: 4 (19 Brits, 6 Americans, 2 Dutch, 1 Italian)

Internationals: 4 (all at U23 level)

Despite not having any senior internationals, this year’s Cambridge squad has a number of very talented U23’s. One of the pick of these is Robert Hurn. Australian born Hurn was an undergraduate at Yale and rowed in their Varsity 8 throughout his four years, including wins in the Harvard v Yale race, the Eastern Sprints and the Ladies Plate at Henley. He raced for Great Britain at the 2016 and 2017 U23 World Championships winning a silver medal both times.

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Robert Hurn

Another medal winning U23 is Dara Alizadeh from the USA.  He rowed for Penn University and spent the 2017 season coaching at Winchester College in the UK (interestingly, one of his top charges, Tobias Schroeder, is a member of the Oxford squad – it’ll be fascinating to see if he lines up against one of his former coaches in March, not sure if that’s ever happened before). In 2015 Alizadeh was selected for the US U23 M8 and won silver behind the Germans.

A crewmate of Alizadeh’s from the 2015 US U23 M8 is Finn Meeks. He studied at Brown University and rowed in their Varsity 8 in 2015, 2016 and 2017 reaching the Grand Final of the IRA Championships each year. He also raced for Brown in the Ladies Plate at Henley this year losing to Molesey/London in the semi-finals.

The 4th U23 international in the Cambridge squad is Great Britain’s Freddie Davidson, he finished 6th in the U23 M2- at this year’s World Championships. He is aiming to win his 2nd Blue having rowed in the 2 seat of the 2017 crew. He’s also got a World Junior silver medal to his name and was a part of the outstanding St Pauls School crew that reached the final of the Princess Elizabeth at Henley in 2016. At the 2017 November GB trials he Hurn finished 4th, the fastest Goldie pair…but 14 seconds behind the winning pair from Oxford.

Another returning Blue is James Letten. He is a graduate of Wisconsin University having transferred from Villanova to pursue his rowing. He spent most of his time at Wisconsin in the 2nd Varsity 8 that finished 5th at the IRA’s in 2016. He’s got an impressive record on the erg having won the Crash-B’s in 2016 with a time of 5:49. He’s also the 19-29 year old world record holder for the 10K (31:43.1).

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James Letten

The 4th returning Blue is Charlie Fisher from Kings College School, Wimbledon– he raced in the winning 2016 crew and is this year’s Vice President.

As well as four returning Blues, Trapmore has four Goldie oarsmen, three of whom have raced in the reserves for two consecutive years. Patrick Elwood, from Broxbourne Rowing Club, was in both the 2016 and 2017 Goldie boats and is hoping it’ll be third time lucky to win a seat in the Blue Boat. The 2nd Goldie oarsman is Peter Rees who, like Elwood, was in the 2016 and 2017 Goldie boat will be hoping this year to win his Blue. The third returning Goldie oarsman is Piers Kasas who raced in the 2015 and 2016 reserve races. The final Goldie oarsman is Tom Strudwick who was in the 2017 Goldie boat. He was selected to race for Great Britain at the inaugural U23 European Championships this season coming away with a silver medal.

A strong contender for a seat in the Blue Boat is American Spencer Furey. The 23 year old is a graduate of Dartmouth College where he stroked the Varsity 8 which finished in the petitie final at the IRA’s and raced in the Ladies Plate at Henley. He sat in the 2 seat of the top Cambridge 4+ which won the Head of the River Fours (along with Finn Meeks, Rob Hurn and Freddie Davidson).

Another good contender for the Blue Boat is Dave Bell, the oldest man in either the Oxford or Cambridge Men’s squads. He’s a familiar name on the domestic rowing circuit and a member of Molesey Boat Club. He raced in the Diamond Challenge Sculls at Henley in 2014 and finished 4th in the February 2016 National Trials in the M1X and won the championship M1x at the Metropolitan Regatta and then the Champ 4X at Marlow Regatta. At the 2017 November GB trials he raced in a pair with club-mate Peter Rees finishing 21st (the 4th fastest Goldie pair).

Dave Bell

Dave Bell of Molesey Boat Club – the oldest man in the Cambridge Squad.

Other newcomer to the squad is 6ft 7in Gerard Kuenning. He’s a Yale graduate and raced in the Bulldogs 2nd Varsity 8 that finished 5th at the Eastern Sprints.

Another athlete to watch is Riccardo Conti, the Italian was a member of the victorious Eton College crew that won the Princess Elizabeth at Henley in 2014 and competed for his college, Clare in the Temple Challenge Cup in 2016 and then the Thames Challenge Cup with Cantabrigian in 2017.

As mentioned above, Cambridge had an excellent day at the Head of the River Fours with their top boat of Spencer Furey, Bob Hurn, Finn Meeks and Freddie Davidson were the fastest coxed four with Tim Nugent, Sam Ringer, Jonty Page and Riccardo Conti winning Band 2 coxed fours. The 2nd and 3rd Band 1 coxed fours also did well finishing 3rd and 4th.

In the Trial 8’s this week Trapmore selected the following crews:

“Goons”                                                                               “Goblins”

Bow: Dave Bell                                                                  Robbie Harris

2: Peter Rees                                                                     Piers Kasas

3: Callum Sullivan                                                             Thomas Strudwick

4: Reggie Mitchell                                                            Gerard Kuenning

5: James Letten                                                                Charlie Fisher

6: Dara Alizadeh                                                                Patrick Elwood

7: Spencer Furey                                                              Rob Hurn

Stroke: Freddie Davidson                                             Finn Meeks

Cox: Hugh Spaughton                                                    Hugo Ramambason

The race was an absolute classic Trial 8’s contest, with the lead changing hands several times during the race with “Goblins” emerging as winners by just ½ length.

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The Cambridge Trial 8’s – Goblins on Middlesex (closest) and Goons on Surrey. Photo: TheBoatRaces.org

 

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Returning Blues: 3

Average age: 22

Nationalities: 6 (18 Brits, 2 Americans, 2 Germans, 1 South African, 1 Italian)

Internationals: 4

This year’s President, Iain Mandale, has the most Boat Race experience of either squad, but is still yet to win a Blue. Instead he has 3 winning appearances for Isis in 2013 – 15. He made his international debut in 2014 winning a silver medal in the BLM4- at the U23 World Championships.

A portrait of of Oxford at Fleming Boarhouse on October 19, 2013

This year’s Oxford President – Iain Mandale

Mandale has three of the 2017 crew to call on, one of the strongest is Josh Bugajski who was also in the 2016 Blue Boat (and a stint in Isis in 2015). He learnt to row at Cardiff University and made his one and only international appearance in the U23 M4X in 2012. He’s been a regular trialist for Great Britain and at the GB trials last month he set the fastest 2K ergo of 5:45.5 and then took 3rd in the M1X time trial. It’s surely only a matter of time before Bugajski makes the senior GB team.

The 2nd returning Blue is the stroke of the 2017 Oxford Blue Boat, Vass Ragoussis. The former Abingdon school pupil took his undergraduate degree at Boston University where he rowed in the Varsity 8 that made the Grand Final at the IRA Championships in 2016.

The final returning Blue is old Etonian Will Geffen. He won his Blue in 2015 and then rowed for Isis in 2016.

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Will Geffen – a member of the 2015 Blue Boat

As well as three returning Blues, Mandale has four more oarsmen with experience of racing for Isis. Benedict Aldous is another old Etonian, he has a junior World Championship medal to his name and was a member of the victorious Isis crew this year. He made headlines for the wrong reasons earlier this year when he was pictured at a fancy dress party dressed as a member of the Klu Klux Klan. – queue much outrage in the Daily Mail!  The 2nd Isis oarsman in William Cahill. The South African learnt to row at St Andrew’s College, Grahamstown and represented South Africa at the World University Games.

The next Isis oarsman is Germany’s Claas Georg Mertens. He stroked the 2017 Isis crew. It’s not often a World Champion appears in an Isis crew, but Mertens has a gold medal from the LM8 in 2015 ( and will remain the reigning LM8 World Champion as the event has now been dropped from the programme).

The 4th Isis oarsman is Tom Commins from the Royal Grammar School High Wycombe. He was stroke of the winning 2016 Isis crew.

The pick of the newcomers to this year’s squad is US Olympian Anders Weiss. He raced the M2- in Rio finishing 11th. He also raced the M2- at this year’s World Championships again finishing 11th. He’s a graduate of Brown University with whom he won two IRA medals. He’ll be expected to be a major part of the Oxford challenge for the 2018 race.

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US Olympian – Anders Weiss

Another talented newcomer is Chris Wales. The Harvard graduate raced for the USA at the U23 World Championships in 2014 finishing 11th in the BLM2X. Whilst at Harvard he won a medal in the lightweight 4 at the IRA Championships.

Coach Sean Bowden also has two highly talented freshmen in his squad. Felix Drinkall of Eton and Tobias Schroeder of Winchester raced together as a M2- at the GB Trials last month taking 1st overall (14 seconds ahead of the nearest Goldie pair). Drinkall won gold in the JM4- at the Junior World Championships this year and Schroeder (the youngest athlete in either squad) took bronze in the JM8.

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Tobias Schroeder

Schroeder is one of three Winchester College pupils in the Oxford squad, all of whom have raced in the Great Britain junior team. Luke Robinson was a crew mate of Schroeder’s in the JM8 in 2017 and Alexander Wythe raced in the JM2- in 2016.

The final athlete to mention is the sole Australian in the squad, Josh Combs. The 27 year old is a graduate of Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia. He’s renowned as an awesome ergo monster and is the reigning World Record holder for the 5K Dynamic Erg for the 19-29 year old age group.

Sean Bowden has selected the following crews for the trial 8’s on Wednesday 6th December:

“Stable”                                                               “Strong”

Bow: Jonathan Olandi                                    Luke Robinson

2: Charles Buchanan                                       Angus Forbes

3: Will Cahill                                                     Nicholas Elkington

4: Alexander Wythe                                        Benedict Aldous

5: William Geffen                                             Tobias Shcroeder

6: Anders Weiss                                                Josh Bugajski

7: Iain Mandale                                                 Claas Mertens

Stroke: Vass Ragoussis                                  Felix Drinkall

Cox: Zachary Thomas Johnson                   Anna Carbery

 

So those are the squads. Neither look to be significantly ahead of the other. Cambridge gained the early season bragging rights at the Head of the River Fours, but Oxford produced some excellent results at the GB Trials. Oxford have the greater international experience with the likes of Weiss and Bugajksi, but Cambridge have some outstanding U23 international oarsmen in their squad. It really is too close to call as to who will take the win in March and it’s going to be really interesting to see how the crews develop in the next few months.