Cardiff – Swansea Varsity Boat Race 2008

Swansea men's crew 

Swansea University RC men’s captain gives his perspective on the Swansea – Cardiff University boat race held on 16th April on the regatta course in Cardiff. 

‘As the day beckons, the crews meet out side Fulton house. Hearts are already racing, as they know what is in store and what could lie ahead for some of them in the future. The travel to Cardiff is relaxed, both teams keeping a cool head and reserving energies. Upon arrival, it is clear that things have been upgraded. Cameras are everywhere; Red Dragon radio is blaring out on massive speakers and the awards area is already set up. Only the water is still. After the coxes have their check of the river, the coin toss starts with the girls, and although they lose the toss, they still get their preferred choice… Grangetown. And though people might not know it, this little victory only boosts the crew’s mindset.

Then it’s the men’s turn. The captains meet, and the challenging Swansea crew are allowed the call. As always tails never fails, and the men win Grangetown also, another morale booster. Soon after, the girls take to the water, disappearing in perfect unison. The faint clunk of their oars sounding off as they approach the start line.

Tension rises among Swansea supporters, who flood the riverbanks to get better vantage points. It seems like an age before they return and to everyone’s horror, Cardiff appear to be miles ahead, however Swansea have the bend and are gaining on every stroke, as they come closer the visible tension in each of their faces is clear. They are exhausted, the white hot pain in their legs is ripping through them, but they still carry on, as they get even closer to the finish they are a quarter of a length behind, however the Cardiff seem to be holding them. Both crews are showing beautiful balance and poise, Cardiff rating a little higher, but Swansea with more power.

As they cross the line, Swansea are unable to break the quarter of a length loss they had. Cardiff faces are ecstatic, Swansea look dejected. As the come off the water, they are greeted to cheers and congratulations, and none more so than the men… who are up next. After a team talk they get onto the pontoon, and in unison each step onto the boat, pushing off as one. The more experienced Cardiff crew are already on their way up the river, looking poised and relaxed. They know they are the clear favourites, but they know there is competition. The usual warm ups for both crews and the start line appears almost out of nowhere.

With an Olympic legend to start the race, backs are straight, eyes are front, and all want an early lead. Attention… GO! Both crews draw back the handle, once, twice, the Cox is calling on the speakers for power from the legs. Cardiff have the first bend, and are slowly pulling away, then it happens. A nightmare situation for a racing crew. The number 2 seat grinds, grinds, and then springs off its runners – he slams it back in, but to no avail. Cardiff are 2 lengths ahead, and Swansea have lost their rhythm. They get it back, pulling even harder, knowing they can get back on the final bend, which is so much in their favour. Once again the seat grinds off, slamming the oarsman into the side of the boat. Six of the crew carry on, praying that he can somehow get that seat to work.  Cardiff seem flawless and are now 5 lengths ahead of us, the cox is calling us out, demanding that we put everything into this to show our quality. The rhythm is back, the power is there, and we are flying. Around our bend, tight to the bank, gaining ground, saving time. Suddenly the cox calls out “we are gaining!” Every man digs into his last reserve, accelerating the power through the legs, ignoring the pain of the lactic acid squeezing the life out of them, all 8 as one.

But it’s too late. Swansea lose by a boat length, although a fine performance. The cursed seat, fine for the previous race, is running smooth as if new, not knowing what dejection it has just caused. Cardiff get off the water in fine spirits to applause, But the Swansea supporters do not let us get off that easily. As we bring the boat off the water, heads are high as friends and family all cheer the effort shown. A loss on the water, but a difficult one to swallow. The ‘what ifs’ depress us for a few minutes, but that is race day. Anything can happen, and we got unlucky. As we sit and watch Cardiff celebrate their new trophy, we plot revenge, next year we say to ourselves, next year’.

Swansea University RC