Benedict Tufnell

Oxford Cambridge Boat Race 2018 Trial Eights

by Benedict Tufnell

Oxford and Cambridge have been battling not each other but themselves this week, under cold grey skies on the Boat Race course between Putney and Mortlake.

The trial eights, as it is known, is an important fixture in the buildup to the 2018 Boat Races which will be held on March 24th next year.

a tricky balancing act that Cambridge men’s head coach Steve Trapmore seemed to get just right

Each squad puts out it’s 16 best athletes in two matched ability eights that race each other in a full dress rehearsal of the actual race; complete with official umpire. The Cambridge squads (men and women) went head to head yesterday and it was Oxford’s turn today.

For the coaches it is a chance to test combinations and see how individuals perform under pressure. Their aim is to produce the closest race they can, with much time and thought devoted beforehand to selecting the most evenly matched crews.

It’s a tricky balancing act that Cambridge men’s head coach Steve Trapmore seemed to get just right on Tuesday with his two boats, dubbed “Goblins” and “Goons”, finishing within half a length of each other after over 4 miles of racing.

“Goblins” racing yesterday on the Middlesex station.

“Goblins”, racing on the Middlesex station and coxed by Cambridge president Hugo Ramambason took the early lead, but the feisty “goons” refused to roll over, drawing level by Hammersmith. The crews traded blows back and forth through the choppy waters. “Goblins” emerged around half a length up by the bandstand, an advantage they maintained to the finish line.

“Goons” on Surrey.

For the light blue women, who are looking to defend their 2017 Boat Race win over Oxford, it was a Harry Potter themed lineup with “Expecto Patronum” racing on the Surrey station versus “Wingardium Leviosa” on Middlesex.

“Patronum” approaching the finish at Mortlake.

“Leviosa” racing on the Middlesex station.

Under the keen eye of race umpire Sir Matthew Pinsent who gave repeated warnings, “Leviosa” took the early lead, but a well timed move from “Patronum” as they passed under Hammersmith Bridge saw them move into a commanding lead which they never relinquished, finally finishing two lengths ahead.

Sir Mathew Pinsent, umpire of the women’s race.

Today it was the turn of the dark blues, although only the men. The Oxford women, due to injuries in the squad, have opted to delay their trial eights which for them will now take place on Sunday 21st January.

Oxford coach Sean Bowden watching over the racing.

Conditions for the Oxford men were much the same as on Tuesday, with a headwind over the second half of the course kicking up some chop on the water. However the race proved a more one sided affair then their light blue counterpart’s.

“Strong” hold the lead around the Surrey bend.

“Strong” and “Stable” clash oars passing Barn Elms.

In a politically themed lineup, “Strong” were on the middlesex station versus “Stable” on Surrey. (For those not familiar with British politics “Strong and Stable” was the mantra assumed by the British Conservative party in the most recent general election.)

“Stable” racing on the Surrey station.

“Strong” took a slight lead off the start, with “Stable” doing well to stay with them round the outside of the first bend. “Strong” then looked to come off slightly better from a clash of oars approaching Barn Elms and moved into a decisive lead. Maintaining what looked to be a better rhythm through the turbulent water in the second half, “Strong” ultimately finished around two lengths ahead of “Stable”.

Exhausted at the finish line.

With trial eights concluded, next on the calendar for the Blues is their winter training camps abroad in early January. There they will do the bulk of their crew selection, ahead of the official crew announcements in February.


Photos ©Benedict Tufnell

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