Trial VIIIs 2011

On December 18th, the two CULRC Trial VIIIs crews, “King” and “Ace”, raced in Henley-on-Thames. As on Boat Race day, the crews had to weigh in a few hours before racing, so a sweat-paddle started off what turned out to be a near-perfect day of sunshine and little wind.

The race was umpired by Sir Matthew Pinsent, with the crews racing in shells by WinTech Racing and Hudson, respectively. The start was marred by delays as two barges moved onto the race course just before the scheduled start time. They took so long that King and Ace had to continue paddling to avoid getting cold, while Sir Matthew eventually had to intervene and ask the barges to move out of the way.

Once the river was clear, the Cambridge crews could finally start. They were set off very close to each other, so a few unfortunate gusts of wind were enough to cause an early and severe blade clash. Sir Matthew called a restart, and this time there was a more than adequate margin of about 60 feet between the crews.

The race itself was of high quality and very closely fought – until about halfway, neither crew managed to move more than a few seats ahead. In the closing stages of the race, Ace, in a Canadian-built Hudson shell and coxed by Michael Hook (Clare), began inching ahead and managed to extend their lead to just under a length by the finish line. King, racing in a WinTech Racing boat and coxed by Penelope Jenkins (1st & 3rd), battled to the finish and never lost touch in what was undoubtedly a very useful experience to both crews.

On the row back, the crews were surprised by a hailstorm – but on the upside, the Oxford crews had to race in it! Furthermore, a rainbow stunning enough to be rather cheesy appeared over the boats and more than made up for it.

Trial VIIIs day was rounded off by tea and scones in Leander Club, where parents, alumni and supporters mingled with the oarsmen, before the crews were whisked off back to Cambridge and to a formal dinner at St John’s College. They will now have approximately two weeks off before reconvening for training camp in Soustons, France.