Cambridge triumph in Henley Races

Ollie Guest 26 March 2012

Cambridge have secured the psychological edge in the build up to Boat Race after the Openweight Women and Blues Lightweight crews secured impressive Henley victories over Oxford.

In the women’s battle Cambridge started far stronger, their skilful rowing confirming them as the better outfit. They appeared to be cruising to a comfortable victory but with 300m to go disaster struck.

At one and a half lengths ahead Caroline Reid, in the Cambridge number 2 seat, caught a crab causing the boat to stop completely dead. As the Light Blues frantically struggled to re-start, Oxford strove furiously to get level.

After a desperate struggle Cambridge managed to find their stride once more, holding off Oxford who pushed them all the way to the end. The result was the first win for the women’s crew since 2007.

Four time Olympic gold medallist and Umpire for the day, Sir Matthew Pinsent, summed it up: “It was a pretty straightforward race but then Cambridge decided to make it exciting in the last 400m.”

The Lightweight Men’s Race was equally dramatic. Both crews were warned for their steering as they fought to gain the advantage but it was Cambridge who responded most effectively after the aggressive opening phases.

Rating 39 strokes per minute compared to the 35 of the Dark Blues Cambridge forced out a narrow half a length lead come the midway point. Push after push the Oxford crew drove at Cambridge, striving to claw back the deficit as both coxes were warned about the line that they were holding.

Yet it was the Light Blues who were able to maintain the lead, crossing the finishing line three quarters of a length ahead of their rivals to cap off an excellent day for Cambridge in the showpiece events.

Earlier on the Oxford Lightweight women stormed to victory. In the early stages the battle was closely fought but after 600m the Dark Blue boat broke away leaving Cambridge with just too much to do.

In the Women’s Reserves tensions were running high between the Blondie (Cambridge) and Osiris (Oxford) crews. Umpire Sir Matt had to warn both teams for their aggressive tactics as Blondie took a narrow lead through their superior technique.

However, Osiris’ raw power proved the decisive factor to give them a lead by one third of a length at the halfway stage. With 500m to go Blondie caught a crab to give Osiris an unassailable advantage.

Victories in the Women’s Openweight and the Men’s Lightweight races will have given the men’s Openweight Light Blue crew a tremendous boost ahead of the Boat Race on Saturday 7 April. This year former Oxford student Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, will present the trophy to the victors.

Ollie Guest