The Henley Boat races 2008 were held on March 23rd in unseasonably cold weather and high winds, although fortunately the conditions did not require the shortening of the course as in 2007. The organizers agreed, however, that the weather would be likely to be better earlier in the day, so the Women’s Blue boat race was swapped with that of the heavyweight reserves. Unfortunately, the weather did worsen throughout the day, making it challenging for all crews and extremely disruptive to the Blondie/Osiris reserves race.
The the first race of the day was the Women’s Blues. Both crews got off to a good start, despite the extremely choppy water in the first 500-meters of the course. The CUWBC Blue Boat pulled out to a slight lead in the first 250 but Oxford coped with the conditions better coming into the 500, pulling out to around a third of a length. Cambridge continued to push the strong Oxford crew and by the 1500, Cambridge took up the rating and looked to be gaining on Oxford. Yet the dark blues responded to our final charge, holding CUWBC to a half length at the finish. Nevertheless, it was a race for the Blue Boat to be proud of, as many were predicting a procession following the 30s defeat at WeHoRR 3 weeks previously.
The next race was the Lightweight Women, who were fired up after great improvements in the last few weeks of training. The race was a close one, with Oxford taking a slight lead in the first 500m. However, CUWBC’s better rhythm and bladework in the choppy conditions edged them past in the middle of the race. Despite a late charge by the Oxford crew, they held them off at the end to win by a third of a length, the closest race of the day, and prevented a Dark Blue clean sweep on the day.
The Blondie versus Osiris race began in very challenging conditions, with spray flying off both crew’s blades as they battled through the choppy water. Coming up towards the 500 meters, Blondie were rowing strongly and ahead of the Osiris crew. However, disaster struck in the form of a particularly vicious wave, which resulted in an unavoidable boat-stopping crab, and their race was effectively over. After recovering, they made up significant ground on Osiris, but sadly never enough to challenge them.