After having to postpone a previously arranged fixture weekend due to the unprecedented flows that the Tideway has been experiencing recently, the squad travelled to Putney on Sunday 2nd March to test their speed against Thames Rowing Club’s top women’s crews.
For the top crew, this was to be the first ‘official’ Boat Race fixture in which the Club has taken part – a practice run for what will become the norm for the Women’s Blue Boat from 2015 onwards – and as such it generated lots of press and media attention with a media launch following behind the crews as well as the umpire’s launch. CUWBC raced two pieces against Thames RC’s top crew between Putney and Hammersmith Bridge.
Sporting six returning Blues, including this year’s President Esther Momcilovic in the cox’s seat, Cambridge were on the Middlesex station for the first race and immediately took the lead off the start, rating 37 strokes a minute compared to Thames’ 40. Though rowing in a strong southerly wind with grey skies overhead the Light Blues didn’t let the conditions affect them and already had a 1 length lead going past the home club’s boathouse. Both crews settled to around 34, with Cambridge extending their lead to around 2 lengths at Barn Elms, and then to 3 ½ lengths by the finish at Hammersmith Bridge.
Swapping stations for the second piece, Cambridge started on the Surrey side allowing Thames to take advantage off the start. Again overrating, Thames opened a narrow advantage by the end of the Embankment. This lead had grown to around ¼ length by the Mile Post, before Cambridge, reeled them in with clean blade-work in the rough water. Cambridge then continued this momentum to move through and pull out a 2 length lead by the finish.
The provisional Blondie crew raced two pieces against Thames RC’s second VIII, first from Putney to Hammersmith, and then from Chiswick Pier to the Mile Post. In the first piece, the Cambridge crew started on the Surrey Station and Thames pulled ahead off the start with the bend in their favour. As the course evened out, the Cambridge crew moved back through them and by Harrods were half a length in front. A push into Hammersmith from Thames closed the gap to 1/4 of a length at the finish. For the second piece the crews kept to the same stations and once again Thames pulled away off the start. This time Thames were able to keep their lead, finishing with about 1 boat length advantage by the Mile Post.
Thames provided a third crew to race the provisional Lightweight crew. For their first piece, Cambridge were on Surrey for what proved to be a fiercely fought first few minutes before they eventually started to inch past the Thames crew and rowed through to Hammersmith with a comfortable 2 length lead. For the second piece, they switched stations and gave Thames a length and a half head start. A much stronger performance off the start this time from the Cambridge crew, halved Thames’ lead and they then continued to move through at a steady rate.
The close, competitive racing, and opportunity to test themselves side-by-side with other crews provided good experience for both crews, who both came away from the weekend with valuable points to improve before the Henley Boat Races.
The CUWBC would like the thank Thames Rowing Club for both their hospitality and for the competition, and wish their crews the best of luck in the Women’s Eights Head of the River Race on the 15th March.