Cambridge women continue preparations for their big day on the Thames

20 March 2011

On Sunday, the men’s heavyweight rowers will be nursing hangovers from the previous night’s post-race celebrations, either basking in the glory of victory or wallowing in the pain of defeat. The banks of the Tideway in London will seem eerily deserted without the TV crews and thousands of spectators who turned out to watch the historic Boat Race the day before.

However, for another group of Cambridge rowers, a few miles along the Thames, Sunday 27th March is their big day, as the women’s Blue boat, Lightweight, and Blondie (reserve) crews race their Oxford counterparts, along with the men’s lightweight boat, over 2km at the Henley Boat Races.

The event may not receive the same media attention or lucrative levels of sponsorship as the men’s race (each rower must raise £500 to compete) but these crews have trained twice a day since the start of the trialling season in September, and are just as hungry for their Varsity win. CUWBC train on the water at Ely and on land in Cambridge, as well as attending a training camp in France over the Christmas Vacation. Each rower has endured seat racing and ergometer testing to be selected for their crew, and the finishing touches are now being added to each boat in preparation for racing.

This year’s races promise to be an exciting spectacle, as CUWBC look to gain revenge for last year’s 3-0 defeat to Oxford. This season, with a new coaching team in place, the Light Blues have produced some very encouraging results. In November, they dominated the top end of the women’s heavyweight and lightweight student categories at the British Indoor Rowing Championships. This was followed by a convincing performance at the Fuller’s Fours Head of the River in London, where the three Cambridge crews outclassed the equivalent Oxford boats, and the first four achieved the title of fastest women’s coxed four on the river.

Recent form was tested on the race course at Henley Head in February. Over 3km, the Cambridge Blue boat posted a time 21 seconds faster than their Oxonian rivals, laying down a clear challenge to last year’s winners.

The Blondie and Lightweight races were much closer affairs, suggesting that some tough battles will be fought on Boat Race Day. More recently, all boats were in London last weekend, sparring with Cambridge Alumni and crews from Imperial College in order to gain more precious race experience.

The Henley Boat Races are a unique event, showcasing some exciting rowing over the historic Henley Course. Coaches to and from Cambridge are provided on Race Day, and all supporters are more than welcome. In the mean time, CUWBC are putting in the final preparations to complete their six month campaign, and are doing everything they can in order to gain the edge over their Dark Blue rivals.

Charlotte McClean

Photo Credit: James Appleton