2017 Cancer Research Boat Races: All you need to know

Lili Bidwell 1 April 2017

This Sunday 2nd April, Cambridge and Oxford are set to battle it out on the Thames in the annual Boat Race, last year watched by some 250,000 spectators lining the 4.25 mile course from Putney to Mortlake.

The 72nd meeting between the two women's crews will see Cambridge trying to seek revenge following the disappointment of last year, slipping to a 24 length defeat after nearly sinking under Barnes Bridge. The men's crew, however, will hope for more of the same in the 163rd edition of the race, having sneaked a narrow win last year following three consecutive losses. If victorious, it will be the first time in almost a decade that any Cambridge crew — Blue Boat or reserve — manages to secure two wins on the bounce.

With blue skies forecast for both the women's race at 4.35pm and the men's race an hour later, we can expect a very different type of race this time around. Yet, what hasn't changed, as women's coach Rob Baker is quick to point out, is the rowers' cast-iron determination to win: "The really special thing about this crew is the way in which every single person has totally bought into the project".

Bearing in mind their results in preparation races, Baker has every reason to be optimistic. After a comfortable victory against the University of London, CUWBC crews (Cambridge University Women's boat club) recorded their best-ever results in the Head of the River race on the Tideway. Out of 321 crews, one of the Cambridge Eights managed an incredible second position, all the more remarkable given they were only four seconds behind the eventual winner, a Leander crew boasting two Olympic silver-medallists and four current world champions. Similarly, the men's crew have also shown they will take some beating, recovering from a dead heat and subsequent loss to Oxford Brookes University to defeat the Italian national crew.

Whilst the bookies may still favour the Oxford crew — offering odds of just 2/5 compared to 15/8 for Cambridge — the past year has seen an important development for the Light Blues with the opening of the new state of the art £4.9m boathouse at Ely. With four bays, a mirrored tank room and the latest technology enabling on the water lactate testing, Project Ely is a vast improvement on the previous facility. "Every day", recalls CUWBC chair Cath Bishop, "involved a game of Tetris to get the boats in and out of the tiny space and then into the water one by water". With the new facility, however, Bishop is very excited about the future of rowing at Cambridge: "This boathouse means the opportunity to train in proper facilities that match our ambitions to become one of the leading university boat clubs in the world".

And, there is further reason for optimism this year with the recent appointment of 2012 GB Olympic silver medallist Richard Chambers in the position of Assistant Coach. A UKCC Accredited Coach, Chambers will have had no difficulty making the leap from stroke side to riverside, and has spent most of his time preparing the reserve crew.

Both Chambers and his Oxford counterpart Jamie Kirkwood have praised the rowers for their ability to juggle the training scheme of an elite athlete with an Oxbridge workload. Though Kirkwood admitted some feelings of frustration, both have credited the unwavering commitment of each and every student, with Chambers showing his surprise in this regard: "Before I came here I had this perception that these guys are good at rowing and that's it. I couldn't have been further from the truth. These guys are phenomenal at what they do".

Indeed, a casual bystander may fail to notice just how brutal the Boat Race preparation can be. Back in September — seven months before the big day and before most of us had even come back up for the year — both crews were already beginning to put into practice the plans that Chambers and co. had spent the summer devising. The schedule is nothing if not punishing, a six-day training regime that involves 5.30 AM starts four days a week in time for land-based training at the boathouse at 6.30 AM. Just like every other student, all this must be done and dusted by 9.00 AM in time for lectures, labs and supervisions, but unlike any other student, they must make the half-hour drive to Ely in time for afternoon water training, only returning back to Cambridge at 5.30 PM.

For the students, however, the mere prospect of crossing the line ahead of the Oxford crew is motivation enough to justify the great sacrifice that rowing in the Boat Race entails. For George Nash, three-time world champion and President of the men's boat club, losing is never an option: "Motivation for me is all about beating Oxford, all about beating those guys on race day, it sucks you in".

The men's and women's races will both be televised by the BBC, with two hours of coverage presented by Claire Balding.


Cambridge crews




Ben Ruble (bow), 87.3 kg

Freddie Davidson, 81.9 kg

James Letten, 106.5 kg

Tim Tracey, 97.4 kg

Aleksander Malowany, 94.4 kg

Patrick Eble, 90.4 kg

Lance Tredell, 94.3 kg

Henry Meek (stroke), 95.4 kg

Hugo Ramambason (cox), 55.3 kg




Ashton Brown (bow), 82kg

Imogen Grant, 58.2 kg

Claire Lambe, 64.8 kg

Anna Dawson, 78.6 kg

Holly Hill, 75.1 kg

Alice White, 76.3 kg

Myriam Goudet, 79.5 kg

Melissa Wilson (stroke), 77.1 kg

Matthew Holland (cox), 52.3 kg


Oxford crews




William Warr (bow), 94.2 kg

Matthew O’Leary, 74.8 kg

Oliver Cook, 91.7 kg

Joshua Bugajski, 99.2 kg

Olivier Siegelaar, 101.2 kg

Michael DiSanto, 89.9 kg

James Cook, 84 kg

Vassilis Ragoussis (stroke), 86.6 kg

Sam Collier (cox) 59.8 kg




Florence Pickles (bow), 60kg

Alice Roberts, 67.5 kg

Rebecca Esselstein, 70.8 kg

Rebecca te Water Naudé, 67.2 kg

Harriet Austin, 76.5 kg

Chloe Laverack, 75.3 kg

Emily Cameron, 76 kg

Jenna Herbert (stroke), 67.1 kg

Eleanor Shearer (cox), 46.9 kg