Henley Boat Races 2007

Building winds throughout the week gave good preparation for the situation as the crews woke up on Sunday April 1st. The Men’s Head of the River Race had been cancelled during racing the day before due to swampings and sinkings of competing crews, and even the usually quiet stretch at Henley had been unrowable the previous afternoon.

The decision was made early on by the Presidents and Committee to shorten the course from its usual 2000m to less than 1500m, starting between Upper Thames Rowing Club and Old Blades.

Blue Boat

Spray almost obscures the two Blue boats (thanks to Sarah Johnson)

First up were the women’s reserve crew. From a disappointing row at the Women’s Head of the River Race, Blondie went from strength to strength during training. Unfortunately their start was somewhat hampered by the conditions, and they dropped over a length down. A very gutsy performance saw them inch back on Osiris’ lead, and they crossed the finish line just under a length behind.

The lightweight women raced half an hour later. They struggled in the conditions, and the OUWLRC crew took the lead off the start. The Cambridge crew stayed with them, but was unable to make any impact on their lead, and crossed the line a length behind.

The Blue boat arrived on the start to find that the Oxford Blue boat, obeying river rather than racing rules, had collided with the stationary Blondie crew and holed their boat. They went ashore to allow the Oxford crew to rerig the Osiris shell, before boating again at 3:15. The start went off smoothly, but if any of the crew thought that they’d had the end of the surprises in that day, they would have been sadly mistaken.

The rudder strings in the Oxford boat snapped during the start pattern, and so Mike Sweeney, the umpire, stopped the race. Once again, the girls went to keep warm in
Upper Thames
boat house, wrapped in gym mats, trying to keep their focus.

Blue Boat Ahead

“I’m on their bow girl!” (Chris Morris)

Meanwhile the lightweight men raced, but the rougher conditions on their station did not help their campaign, and they crossed the line a length down.

Finally, the two Blue boats lined up on the start. This time, the start went off without interruption. The Cambridge crew moved up a few seats on the start pattern, and comfortably contained the two big pushes that their opposition put in. They came through the Barrier a length ahead, their sharper technique giving them an advantage in the wind and waves. In the second 500m, Oxford took the quieter water under the Bucks bank, which helped them, but not enough to challenge the winning Cambridge Blue boat, who finished half a length ahead.

Prize Giving

Triumphant at the Prizegiving (Richard Hamersley)

Comments on the Race

Cambridge emerged victorious and unscathed after a weekend of chaos on the Thames a week before the Boat Race. Oxford suffered a series of accidents in the lead-up to the women’s Boat Race before Cambridge edged a superb contest yesterday….

Oxford won four of the five Henley Boat Races yesterday but its women’s first boat lost “the big one”. The event was badly affected by wind and waves and the organisers took an early decision to shorten the course from its usual 2,000 metres to 1,500 metres. “In these conditions, that is more than enough,” Mike Sweeney, the umpire, said.

Oxford, the heaviest women’s Boat Race crew ever at an average of 11st 12lb, experienced a raft of accidents before they raced more than an hour late. In the warm-up for their race they collided with Blondie, Cambridge’s reserve team, and holed their boat. A half-hour delay allowed them to rerig their reserve boat but their rudder then broke. Sweeney again allowed more time for repairs.

When the event finally started, the crews were almost level to halfway before the neater Cambridge combination squeezed a half-length win.”

Mike Rosewell, The Times, 02/04/07

“Cambridge won the Women’s Boat Race in a titanic tussle with the heaviest Oxford crew ever to take to the water. Cambridge’s better blade work and settled rhythm began to tell by halfway, and the light blues gradually squeezed ahead to win by half a length in 4min 3sec.”

Christopher Dodd, The Independent, 02/04/07

“A good race was in prospect. Oxford had just a four-second winning leeway in the four-and-a-quarter mile Women’s Head two weeks before the Boat Race; Oxford weighed in at just under 11 stone 13lb, the heaviest since records began and 6 pounds an athlete more than Cambridge; Cambridge had only won once in the previous five years. Yes, it was all building up nicely, but then there was a rather ominous crunching noise for those above Remenham. The Oxford Blue boat, in their warm-up, hit Blondie, returning from their race defeat.

Oxford had holed their boat. Umpire Sweeney allowed a half hour delay while the Oxford camp worked frenziedly to re-rig their Osiris reserve boat to suit the Blue brigade. The race then happened, only to be stopped in under a minute when Oxford’s rudder broke.

Finally the Women’s Boat Race happened and it was a great battle. Cambridge took a slight early lead, but were only a third of a length up at the Barrier, with Oxford, looking threatening on the Bucks station, seeming poised for late speed. Cambridge, neater and longer, held on though and won by half a length. Denis (?) Silk, the Cambridge coach, kept his post-2006 race prediction of a 2007 Light Blue success whilst Ian Shore, Oxford’s successful coach in recent seasons, underplayed his pre-race problems. “They rowed better than us,” he admitted. “I’m not into making excuses.” ”

Mike Rosewell, Rowing and Regatta, May 2007
“At the Henley Boat Races yesterday (Sunday, 01 April), the Light Blues clinched only their second win in six years over their Oxford rivals. President Lucy Wordley led her boat from seat No 6 to a half-length victory in a race over a shortened 1,500m course because of a stiff north-east breeze.”

Cambridge Evening News

“The dark blues just missed a clean sweep, loosing out in only the women’s hwt blue boat race, though interestingly with the exception of the Nephthys/Granta race where OUBC rowed over (Cambridge didn’t field a 2nd lwt eight this year, claiming lack of funds), none of the winning margins were greater than a length.

Alas it looks like the Oxford hwt women may have helped to sabotage themselves, as after boating they had a collision with Blondie during their warm up and managed to put a massive scar along the bottom of their boat (caused by a Cambridge blade). They then changed to the 2nd crew’s boat, re-rigged it, got on water and set off only for one of the rudder strings to break.

The race was stopped, both crews came back in while Oxford fixed their rudder, they then boated again, raced and lost by half a length.

This was the heaviest Oxford crew every but despite assurances that the boat they switched into was for the same crew weight as their own, they looked seriously under-boated on the water. Still, Oxford‘s bad luck shouldn’t detract from a good strong performance by the Cambridge women.”

Tideway Slug

Guen Bradbury