Benedict Tufnell

Best till last – Oxford Women’s Trial Eights

by Benedict Tufnell

This weekend, the Oxford women took their turn racing matched eights over the full length of the Tideway course in a dress rehearsal ahead of Boat Race Day in March.

The Cambridge men and women and Oxford men all raced their trial eights last month, the Oxford women however were forced to postpone due to a lack of healthy and available athletes in December.

It proved to be worth the wait, with Sunday’s race being the closest matched of all the contests we have seen in the lead up to the 2018 Boat Races.

the crews were all but matched in speed, with the lead only changing hand in accordance with the bends of the course.

The matched crews, dubbed Great Typhoon and Coursing River, took to the water in freezing, wet conditions on Sunday. Coursing River won the toss and elected to race on the Surrey station, under the watchful eye of Matt Pinsent who will be the official umpire for the 2018 Women’s Boat Race.

Matt Pinsent umpiring the trial eights in freezing rain on Sunday.

Off the start, Coursing River were slightly faster, taking two seats before Great Typhoon’s bend advantage took effect and they drew level before moving into a slight lead around Fulham Football Ground.

For much of the rest of the race the crews were all but matched in speed, with the lead only changing hands in accordance with the bends of the course.

Great Typhoon approaching Hammersmith Bridge on the Middlesex station

Approaching Hammersmith Bridge, the course swung round to Coursing River’s favour who sure enough moved through to a slight lead. Both crews passed under the bridge to cheers from brave supporters who had turned out despite the dismal conditions.

Supporters on Hammersmith Bridge braving the weather on Sunday

Shortly before Chiswick Eyot there was some clashing of blades as the coxes steered aggressively for the fastest water, but firm instructions from Pinsent managed to part the crews before any oars were lost.

Coursing River racing on the Surrey Station

In what was perhaps the decisive move of the race Great Typhoon, rowing around the outside of the Surrey bend, pushed hard to pull themselves level before the course turned back in their favour. This allowed them to push out to a lead on the inside of the final bend and give themselves just enough of a buffer against Coursing River’s final sprint. The final verdict was half a length to Great Typhoon, who were stroked by returning Blue Alice Roberts.

Coursing River exhausted at the finish line.

It was a triumph for new head coach Andy Nelder who succeeded in selecting the best matched eights of all the clubs.

Nelder has taken over the lead role coaching the Oxford women this year, having previously been head coach of the Oxford University Lightweight Rowing Club and coach of the heavyweight Oxford reserves boat Isis, alongside Sean Bowden.

As Isis coach, Nelder built an astonishing record, winning nine of the last ten races against Goldie. If this trial eights performance is anything to go by, the dark blue women look to be in safe hands.

The Boat Races will take place on the Tideway in London on Saturday 24th March 2018 4.31pm & 5.31pm.

Photos ©Benedict Tufnell

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