Just a day after Cambridge’s men were left stunned by Oxford’s breathtaking performance on Saturday, the Light Blue women were also subjected to defeat over 2000m at Henley in the 66th women’s Boat Race. The Dark Blue boat, containing Natalie Redgrave, daughter of five-time Olympic gold medallist Steve, won by a length to retain their title, despite promising performances from Cambridge in events earlier this season.
The beautiful weather made for ideal racing conditions and brought supporters out in their droves for a day on the Thames which saw not only the two women’s Blue boats going head-to-head, but also the women’s reserve crews, and men’s and women’s lightweight crews. Fast times and closely-fought races were definitely possible, and the rowers did not disappoint.
Oxford’s women made a strong start, but favourites Cambridge edged ahead and looked good for the first 500m. It was not long, however, before they were staring down the barrel of the same gun that their male counterparts had faced less than twenty-four hours earlier, as the Dark Blues pushed on into the lead, stretching their advantage to a third of a length by the halfway mark.
The Light Blues kept themselves in contention, however, and although Oxford’s lead was increasing, the gap certainly did not open up as quickly as it had done on the Tideway the previous afternoon. Cambridge steadied the deficit at half a length, and instigated a huge push over the last 500m. Chances of a dramatic comeback were improved as the boats moved close together and Oxford were momentarily knocked off their stride in trying to pull away, but it was not to be and it was the Dark Blues who were once again left delighted at the finish, winning in a time of 6 minutes and 24 seconds.
Oxford earlier looked like they had further asserted their dominance in the women’s open-weight division, just as they had in the men’s equivalent, as Osiris crossed the line ahead of Blondie in the reserves race. They found themselves disqualified, however, for failing to move over sufficiently when instructed, thus causing Blondie to crab and to lose what chance they had of winning a close race.
This, and a victory by one and a half lengths in the women’s lightweight race, proved Cambridge’s only successes in a tremendously disappointing weekend of racing that had promised so much. The men’s lightweight crew were beaten in the final race of the day, which proved to be the closest of all. Oxford managed to hold off a late Cambridge fightback to win by just a canvas.
On a brighter note for Cantabrigians, Caius convincingly won the men’s intercollegiate event to continue their tremendous season, and Pembroke (Cambridge) the women’s.
The results for the university boats, however, will surely have left all of Cambridge’s rowers and coaches with much food for thought as they cast their minds towards next year’s events.
Tom Smith – Sports Editor
Library Photo:- Jimmy Appleton