Tim Koch reports from the Oxford - Cambridge ‘Henley Boat Races’.
When most people talk of THE Oxford - Cambridge Boat Race, they are usually referring to the event first rowed in 1829 and which nowadays is the race between the top heavyweight men of Oxford University Boat Club and of Cambridge University Boat Club over the 4 1/4 mile Putney to Mortlake Course on the Thames in London. However it is (arguably) correct to say that today there are in fact nine Oxford - Cambridge Boat Races.
The second race started in 1965, 136 years after the first, when the men’s heavyweight reserves (Isis/Oxford and Goldie/Cambridge) raced each other over the Tideway Course, shortly before the main event.
The only other Dark Blue - Light Blue clash on the Tideway is the Veterans’ Race which is run over a shortened course, Putney to Hammersmith on a day in the week before the main race. It is the ‘least serious’ of the nine races with victory usually going to whoever managed to organise a few practice rows beforehand. It is also an historic parade of past sponsors’ kit (much of which seems to have shrunk over the years).
The other six races have been held at Henley and the ‘2014 Henley Boat Races’ took place on Sunday 30 March. The main event was the (heavyweight) Women’s Boat Race. The others were the heavyweight Women’s Reserves (Osiris/Oxford - Blondie/Cambridge), the Lightweight Women and the Lightweight Men. There were also the two newest races involving the men and the women who are the current holders of the Headship of the Lent bumping races in Cambridge and of the Torpids bumping races in Oxford. A nice video promo for the Women’s Boat Race is on YouTube:
(It could be argued, though not by me, that there are really ten events if you include the Oxford - Cambridge Goat Race.)
As someone who was supposed to be covering these races for HTBS, I was a bit of a failure. I missed the first race, Osiris v Blondie, while I was sorting out camera trouble. The other races proved difficult to follow due to the density of the crowds lining the course which started at Phyllis Court, near the Royal Regatta finish, and ran 2,000 metres to half way along Temple Island, near the HRR start. It was unfortunate that, as the crews had to pass on the Bucks side of the Island, the finish was out of sight of all but a privileged few. I would have though it better to run a slightly shorter course and finish in sight of the spectators. However, full marks to sponsors Newton for generating enough excitement to draw such a large crowd (aided by the exceptionally warm weather). The ‘unique selling point’ of the 2014 Henley Boat Races was that this was the last year that the heavyweight women would race there, as they will be joining the men on the Tideway in 2015. This has got some interest from the non-rowing press and one of the better resulting articles is in the Telegraph.
Luckily, more talented people than I managed to see what was happening and links to their work are below. Also included are YouTube links to excellent coverage of the Women’s Boat Race and the Osiris - Blondie Race. In summery, the results were as follows:
Heavyweight Women - Oxford 4 lengths, 5 minutes and 50 seconds.
Reserve Heavyweight Women - Oxford 1/2 a length, 6 minutes and 1.5 seconds.
Lightweight Women - Oxford 3 1/2 lengths, 6 minutes and 8 seconds.
Lightweight Men - Cambridge 3 1/2 lengths, 5 minutes and 30 seconds.
Intercollegiate Men - Downing College, Cambridge.
Intercollegiate Women - Wadham College, Oxford.
In the absence of real words, I hope that my pictures paint a thousand of them.
Rachel Quarrell’s report for the Telegraph is here. She concludes:
The job now for both women’s clubs is to raise their standard again before next year, when their race will join the men’s on the Tideway over a full 4.25 miles. The distance itself is not a problem for women, but spectators, sponsors Newton and the BBC, who have just signed a new deal to televise the races until 2021, will all be hoping for a contest which lasts considerably longer in what is likely to be a 19 - 20 minute event.
Rachel’s pre-race report is also online. The Boat Race website has its official report and nice videos of both of the Newton sponsored races are here for Oxford - Cambridge and here for Osiris - Blondie.
On the same day, Sunday 30th March, the Veterans’ (Masters’) Head of the River Race took place on the Tideway. Following the abandonment of the (younger men’s) Head the previous day due to a number of ‘sinkings’, there was obviously much concern about an event for perhaps less resilient participants. In the end, the event managed to run from start to finish and without major incident. However, I received this from a participant:
The tide turned late (as expected) so lots of people didn’t know where they should be, so marshalling was chaos – the river between the Black Buoy and the Crabtree was jammed solid with boats. Then the flood tide heavily favoured the crews at the back – the provisional results are hilarious 4 out of the top 50 start crews finished in the top 50 (Monmouth who had start number 21 and finished first actually started in position 209). We had a great row though and it was lovely weather so all good fun!
To be fair to the organisers, they say:
This year’s overall Vets Head results were severely impacted by the effects of the tide. We realised several weeks before the event that the scheduled start time was too early and that the low tide was going to be later than we originally calculated. After discussions with the Port of London Authority over the river closure, they insisted that the original Notice To Mariners could not be changed. We shifted the start to be as late as that window allowed. Additionally, after the cancellation of yesterday’s HoRR, we could not risk the safety of our competitors and officials by holding marshalling crews any longer before we actually started the race. The end result is that the later you started the more assistance you got from a very strong flood tide.
They should have held it in Henley!