Cambridge Trial Eights

The Championship Course, London

3 minute view
Words Tom Ransley
Photography Benedict Tufnell
Published 14.12.23

The Trial Eights sees evenly matched crews from the same club race against each other over The Championship Course, these races form a key part of the Boat Race season. They come at the end of the autumn academic term for the student-athletes and are usually the last key event before the Christmas break.

Cambridge University Boat Club (CUBC) held their trials on Wednesday 13 December 2023. The day started with an unplanned test of strength for the Cambridge men. A parked car was blocking the doorway to Thames Rowing Club, preventing access to their boat. The offending vehicle was eventually pulled clear of the boat bay. The delay meant the morning pre-paddle was substituted for an erg session.

The first crews on the water were those of the openweight women, named after characters from The Lion King; Mufasa and Sarabi. Despite an unexpected slack tide, the conditions were extremely rough. Predictions that there might be a repeat of last year’s men’s Boat Race, namely cutting the first Middlesex bend, did not come to pass.

Mufasa, who had fewer Blues onboard, slipped into the lead along Crabtree Reach and survived a fierce counterattack under Hammersmith Bridge, going on to cross the finish line 2.5 lengths ahead of Sabari.

The openweight men also took inspiration from the big screen, naming themselves Hansel and Zoolander. Having watched one of the lightweight crews sink, the CUBC Men’s Chief Coach Rob Baker decided to set his crews off upriver to avoid the worst of the conditions. They started at Craven Cottage and Zoolander’s ridiculously good looking bladework proved too much for Hansel. Zoolander crept out to a clear water lead before Hammersmith and held on to a 2.5 length margin by the finish.