Coaches’ Perspective, January 2024: What to expect from the remainder of trialling and selection?

Rob Baker, Men’s Chief Coach

We have had a very good term of training and that continued with a great camp in Avis, Portugal, the team are working very hard and now we have to push on with our training and preparation whilst balancing the academic pressure that comes in the Lent term. This term we have three fixtures lined ups for our crews, these races are very important to test the crews and individuals to see how we hold up, what we can learn and improve on as we build towards the 29-30 of March. Selection is ongoing, we want to give everyone the most amount of time possible, whilst still giving the crews time to bed in and work together. Post-Boat Race we are very interested in having a good contingent racing at Henley and representing the Club there at the highest level possible.

Rob Baker

Paddy Ryan, Women’s Chief Coach

The selection process:

  • Blue Boats are selected before reserve crews through testing on the water which can be long and tiring. Don’t be surprised if you don’t hear much from the athletes over this period, testing can often take place over multiple days and the final crew won’t be announced until close to the race so they might not be able to tell you for sure what the outcome is.
  • Athletes that are in contention for reserve crews will be selected later. The uncertainty can be tricky for athletes, so try to avoid overloading the athletes with questions.
Paddy Ryan

The build up: 

  • During the last few months in the run up to the Boat Race the crews will take part in “Fixtures.” These are 1 on 1 races against other top universities and clubs, and take place over portions of the Boat Race course. 
  • The crews that race the fixtures will be provisional and there is potential that these will change going into the Boat Race.
  • The squads will be in London almost every other week in the run up to the Boat Race. In between this will be testing weekends and other preparations, so it is a busy schedule. 

Lightweight athletes:

  • The lightweight crews will be preparing to make weight on race day. This means that they have to be under a specified weight. If they don’t make this weight they are unable to race. Some athletes will naturally be at weight, others might have to be conscious of getting to weight. Please be supportive of this and avoid adding unnecessary pressure, they will be supported by the Club. 

Preparing to watch the Boat Race:

  • If you are attending the race in person, make sure you have planned in advance. Decide where to watch the race, ensure you have booked accommodation, and if you are coming to the Boat Race Dinner purchase your tickets in plenty of time. The athletes will want to focus on preparing for the race and won’t have much headspace to help you organise this. Further spectator and event information can be found below. If you have any questions, please contact [email protected].  

Boat Race week:

  • The athletes will move down to London just over a week before the race. They will be busy with training, crew meetings and continuing to work on their degree. However, if you are in London and want to see them please do, as it can be good for them to take a break from the squad. It’s best to limit it to coffee or lunch in Putney, as they won’t have much time and also need to rest. Most crews will organise their dinners together and it is important that they have this time to plan and bond, so check with them as to what they are doing. When visiting with athletes, please take precautions and do not visit them in person if you are ill. If this is unavoidable, please see them outside with a mask. 

Spares races:

  • The spares races (lightweights and openweight spare pair) will take place during Boat Race week (date TBC). These races take place between the start line and the milepost, so the best place to watch is along the embankment. Cambridge always manages to produce a good crowd for the spares races. It’s an exciting one to watch as it marks the start of the Boat Races. 

Boat Race Day

  • Lightweight Boat Races: 29 March

The crews will arrive in Putney in the morning to do a prepaddle and weigh in. If you want to wave them off for their prepaddle please do so from London Rowing Club. Do not try to access the other boathouses or engage them in a conversation, they will be in preparation mode. After they have weighed in there will be a break before the race where they can pop out of the boathouses to say hello, but they won’t come out for long as they will have briefings and warm ups to do. The crews will boat around 45 minutes before they race (the athletes will be able to tell you the exact time). It is tradition for supporters to be outside the boathouses to clap the crews out onto the water. After the race the athletes will disembark at Mortlake. 

  • Openweight Boat Races: 30 March

The crews (Blue Boats, Goldie and Blondie) will prepaddle in the morning and then head back to their accommodation. Don’t expect to see the athletes during this period. The athletes will be driven down to the boathouses a couple of hours before the race. A large number of supporters will have arrived beforehand and will applaud the arrival of the minibuses and as the athletes enter the boathouses. It’s worth arriving early to see this! The coin toss between the presidents will happen on the embankment after the arrival of the athletes. Following this the athletes will have a short period in which to come out of the boathouses to say hello to friends and family. Please do not try to find them in the boathouses. The crews will boat about 45 minutes before the race. There will be an announcement for this and the crowds will applaud them onto the water. After the race crews will disembark at Mortlake. Parents will not be able to access the finish area. As the race is earlier this year, it may be possible for athletes to find parents after the race before getting ready for the dinner, but please let them know before coming to find them.


Parent perspective, January 2024: What to expect from the remainder of trialling?

Toby Benzecry

This is my fourth year as a Boat Race parent.  My eldest son, Seb, was in the winning openweight men’s boat in 2021 (the COVID year), lost in Goldie in 2022, and won in the Blue Boat in 2023. Whichever crew he’s in this year, it will be his last Boat Race. It’s been quite a journey.

I have long felt that CUBC could do more to make parents feel informed and included – I find the entire selection process bewildering, and only learn about sessions and events in London when rowers appear on our doorstep. I think it has been assumed that our kids will keep us informed, but as we know, that is not a safe assumption. Therefore, I welcome this information and increased communications from CUBC to let us know what’s going on and to invite us to key events.

Seb Benzecry and his father Toby Benzecry
Seb Benzecry (men’s president) with his father Toby Benzecry

The Boat Race is a big deal. Our children go through a unique torture to secure their places in the crews that will battle Oxford on 29-30 March. I spent four years at Cambridge as an undergraduate, and trust me, it is a brutal place in the winter. The rowers are out on the river almost every day, often in the dark and in sub-zero temperatures. When they’re not rowing, they’re in the gym. They are in constant competition with their peers for a seat in one of the boats. It’s relentless and unforgiving, and all for a single race.  We owe it to them to give as much support as we can.

What does support mean?  Well, certainly moral: selection is an emotional rollercoaster and even the most uncommunicative athlete appreciates words of encouragement and a shoulder to cry on. Hosting rowers when they’re training on the Thames is incredibly important – so if you live anywhere near Putney and have a spare room, please get in touch. Funding is always needed – there’s more information on philanthropic opportunities below.  Otherwise, make sure that you know what’s going on, come to any events that you can, and if distances are too great, tune in and get friends and family to do the same.

On the subject of events, there was a good turnout for Trial VIIIs before Christmas, and the setup at London Rowing Club is fantastic.  Big screen, drone footage, professional commentary, hot coffee and cakes.  Do try to make it to one of the upcoming fixtures (the next one is on 28 January). I recommend checking for news at www.theboatrace.org where you can also subscribe for updates.

If you’re able to make it to London on 29-30 March, make sure that you’re on Putney embankment at least an hour before the start of your child’s race.  Cheering as they carry their boat to the water is an incredible feeling, and really important for them.  Then it’s up to you – stay there, to watch the start or find a suitable vantage point along the river (it’ll be very crowded). Last year Amanda and I motorbiked to Chiswick Bridge after they boated so we could watch them finish. I’ll do the same this year. If you can’t make it to London on the day, the BBC gives excellent coverage and it’s streamed on YouTube.

Leading up to the big day there will be opportunities to get together in London, and after the races the annual Boat Race Dinner is a wonderful occasion; keep an eye on your inbox for invitations.

In 2021 the Boat Race was held in Ely because of COVID, and we weren’t allowed to attend in person. In absence of physical contact, the parents of the Men’s Blue Boat formed a WhatsApp group, and we shared a great deal, including many photographs that our kids had sent us.  I’d like to do more of this – if you’re interested in joining an informal parents WhatsApp group, please use the link below to join. And – once the final selections are made – from there we can create WhatsApp groups for each boat. 

If any of you want to get in touch with me directly, please don’t hesitate to email me at [email protected].


Upcoming Events for Parents Explained

Over the next few months many events for parents and families will take place. Read more about each event below. 


Fixtures – what are they?

Fixtures are an opportunity for coaches to select what they think might be their best racing crews and pit them against some of the best Club and National team opposition in the UK and Europe. It’s a chance to see how the prospective athletes cope with pressure, and also an opportunity to try out race day tactics against unknowing opposition. Further details on The Boat Race website


📅 Sunday 25 February 11am – 4.30pm

Pre-Boat Race Fixture Series

BRCL invite you to book your place and join fellow Gemini Boat Race supporters to watch the prospective crews test themselves against elite opposition under challenging race conditions.

Join us from 11 am in the bar at Thames Rowing Club. With views across to the start of The Boat Race, you will be in the perfect spot to watch the action, then cheer the crews as they go out to race and welcome them as they return. Follow the livestreamed races on the ‘Big Screen’ . A cash bar will be available, or better still why not book a table for Sunday Lunch in Thames Rowing Club’s Riverside Restaurant https://www.riverside-thamesrc.co.uk/booking

Dress Code – Wrap -up warm & choose your Blue!

Race times:

12.20 CUBC Women’s Lightweights v Thames Rowing Club

12:40 CUBC Women’s ‘A’ v Thames Rowing Club (Livestreamed)

12:55 CUBC Women’s ‘B’ v Thames Rowing Club

13:10 OUBC Men’s ‘B’ v Leander

13:20 CUBC Men’s ‘B’ v Oxford Brookes

13:30 CUBC Men’s ‘A’ v Oxford Brookes

13:45 OUBC Men ‘s ‘A’ v Leander (Livestreamed)

We would love to livestream all the races, but it simply isn’t possible for us due to the logistics of launches, cameras & drones.

If you are unable to attend in person, select races will be livestreamed.


📅 Wednesday 13 March 

Crew Announcements

The Boat Race Company Limited invites you to join fellow Gemini Boat Race supporters at Battersea Power Station from 6:00pm for the announcement of the 2024 Oxford and Cambridge Men’s and Women’s Blue Boats.

This event will take place inside the world famous venue.  For the first time in history, the event will be open to the public and the crews will be announced to the world surrounded by family, friends and Boat Race fans.

There is no need to book a place, just arrive in plenty of time to get a ring side seat!

The reserve crews from Oxford and Cambridge (Goldie, Blondie, Isis, and Osiris) will be announced by the respective Clubs and Universities online on Thursday 14 March, with the lightweight crews from Oxford and Cambridge announced online on Friday 15 March. 


📅 Friday 29 March 

2024 Lightweight Boat Race and Veteran’s Races

The Boat Race Company Limited invites you to the Oxford and Cambridge Supporters’ Party at London Rowing Club. Further details to follow in subsequent Club communications. 

Women’s Lightweight Boat Race – 14:13

Women’s Veterans’ Race – 14:33 (Crews made up of Cambridge and Oxford alumni)

Men’s Veterans’ Race – 14:53 (Crews made up of Cambridge and Oxford alumni)

Men’s Lightweight Boat Race – 15:13

CUBC Supporters Gathering

(following the Lightweight Boat Race and ahead of the Boat Race)

Please join us on the ground floor of the Duke’s Head in Putney at 5:30pm for a gathering of Cambridge parents and families, alumni, and supporters, the men’s and women’s lightweight crews and their coaches, along with members of the Club’s Rowing and Management Board and Foundation Council. The event is an opportunity to meet other parents and families and socialise following the Lightweight Boat Race and ahead of the Boat Race. All Cambridge supporters are welcome. A cash bar will be available. 


📅 Saturday 30 March 

The 2024 Gemini Boat Race

There are a number of ways for parents and families to enjoy the 2024 Gemini Boat Race. 

Women’s Boat Race – 14:46

Blondie v Osiris (Women’s Reserve Race) – 15:01

Goldie v Isis (Men’s Reserve Race) – 15:16

Men’s Boat Race – 15:46

Parents of the men’s and women’s Blue Boats will be allocated two tickets per athlete to hospitality at King’s College School Putney. Due to capacity limitations we can not offer additional tickets. More information will be shared following crew announcements. 

Parents of Goldie and Blondie athletes, additional family members of Blue Boat athletes, and any parents of lightweight athletes wishing to watch the race are invited to book hospitality tickets at Tideway Scullers School by emailing [email protected]. These tickets are subject to availability and are sold on a first come, first served basis. Food, tea, and coffee will be served with doors opening at 1:00pm. Tickets are £25 per adult and £15 for children under 16. 

The Boat Race also has many viewing positions along the course, with large screens set up throughout. 

  • Watch morning outings, the Coin Toss, and crews exit the boathouses from Putney Embankment (times TBA). 
  • Barnes offers a number of wonderful pubs with views of the course. 
  • Bring your own picnic to Dukes Meadow and watch the crews as they race past the Band Stand in the closing stages of each race. 
  • If you’re interested in an overhead view of the course, Chiswick Bridge offers great vantage points. 
  • Or book your place at The Ship Pub in Mortlake to watch the finish. 

The Boat Race Company also offers premium hospitality packages to both Oxford and Cambridge supporters at London Rowing Club, for those interested. 

Broadcast Coverage of The 2024 Gemini Boat Race

There will be opportunities for fans all around the world to watch The Boat Race. Stay up to date on domestic and international broadcast details here: https://www.theboatrace.org/broadcast-coverage-of-the-gemini-boat-race. Spectators will be able to view live coverage and recordings on The Boat Race Youtube channel (https://www.youtube.com/@theboatrace), pending any regional restrictions.

Further spectator experience details will be announced in subsequent Club communications. 

The 2024 Boat Race Dinner

What is the Boat Race Dinner?  

The Boat Race Dinner is an annual event that celebrates the achievements of those racing in the Boat Race and Lightweight Boat Races by welcoming them as life members of CUBC. The 2024 Boat Race Dinner will be held at the Royal Lancaster in London after the Boat Race on Saturday 30 March 2024.

Parents are encouraged to attend, but due to capacity constraints, please note we cannot offer places to partners of current athletes or extended family members. The dress code for the dinner is black-tie/cocktail or evening dresses.


‘Pulling Together’ 2024 – CUBC’s Month of Giving

‘Pulling Together’ is CUBC’s annual digital fundraising event, where members, parents, and supporters come together to invest in the Club. This third annual month of giving is taking place from 29 February – 30 March 2024.

Gifts support: 

All gifts received through this campaign support the Pulling Together Fund, which supports student-athletes on an in-year basis. The fund has six priorities which are: 

Why is CUBC raising funds?

Whilst our student-athletes are excelling on the water, we are seeking to address new challenges behind the scenes. Our commitment to providing our rowers a rigorous and formative experience remains firm. But to do that we need support from alumni, parents, and families. 

The costs of delivering one of London’s most iconic sporting and cultural events with 250,000 spectators has increased significantly over the last 20 years, resulting in lower levels of sponsorship income for the Club. To meet the challenge, we have put in place plans to diversify revenue to ensure we have a financially sustainable future – including inviting our community to support us.

Preparing six race-ready crews, ensuring they have the right equipment and support to train and to race, comes at a substantial cost each year. We also run an extensive development programme in which college rowers participate. Gifts to CUBC will enable young men and women to reach their sporting potential as part of a high performance team. Our aim is to build a strong financial base, ensuring cost is no barrier for a student-athlete competing for a place in a Boat Race crew.

When you begin hearing about the campaign next month, please consider participating. All gifts, large or small, are warmly welcome and hugely appreciated. We particularly welcome recurring gifts, which provide sustainable support for our student-athletes and coaches. 

In the past, we have also heard from parents interested in underwriting the cost of specific items like equipment. Please do get in touch with us if this is of interest. A full list of these funding opportunities can be found here:


Boat Race Lingo

Don’t know your Blue from your Blondie? Confused by the catch and the crab? We’ve put together a raft of rowing terminology for anyone who needs to brush up on their Boat Race vocab before the big day!


The Rowing Season in pictures