Boat Race crews duel on the Thames

Oxford stole a march on their fierce rivals Cambridge at the 2011 Fuller’s Head of the River Fours, after their top boat finished more than 12 seconds ahead of the fastest Light Blue boat.

The Isis (Oxford) I Coxed Four was the only boat to feature a returning Dark Blue – club president Karl Hudspith – and finished comfortably clear of the fastest Cambridge boat on an unseasonably balmy Sunday morning on the River Thames.

The crews race the University Boat Race course in reverse – on the Tideway of the Thames between Mortlake and Putney – offering both clubs an early opportunity to assess the strength of their rival’s squad.

Hudspith’s Isis I crew – which also included Dan Harvey, Hanno Wienhausen, Roel Haen, and GB Rowing Team U23 cox Zoe de Toledo – finished the four-and-a-quarter-mile course in 19 minutes and 5.35 seconds, 11 seconds behind event-winners Leander and one second adrift of second-placed Molesey.

The top Cambridge boat – consisting of club president David Nelson, Steve Dudek, Alex Scharp, Tom Haworth, and cox George Bosson – crossed the finishing line at Putney Road Bridge in 19 minutes and 17.54 seconds.

The result appeared to give Oxford the edge after the first and only head-to-head before next year’s University Boat Race, but there was still time for a sting in the tail from Cambridge’s remaining crews.

The Light Blues’ I, III, and IV boats finished in sixth, seventh, and eight position, comfortably clear of the second Oxford boat, which finished close to a minute adrift of Isis I.

‘15th overall and close to the GB squad boats represented a solid performance for such an early season race,’ Oxford’s Chief Coach Sean Bowden told www.theboatrace.org after the race. ‘Of course we were not too far ahead of Cambridge’s fastest boat so we won’t get too carried away, and with less impressive performances from our other boats we know we have plenty to do in the months ahead.

‘Injuries held us back a bit more than usual for the time of year, and as people return we should see the squad strengthen up a bit with more competition for places.”

The results give both clubs cause for confidence ahead of the 158th University Boat Race next year, with Oxford’s top crew comfortably clear of the chasing pack, but Cambridge’s strength in depth a source of real concern for the Dark Blues.

Next up for the Oxford and Cambridge squads is the Trial Eights on Tuesday 13 December, in which two Coxed Eight crews from the same university race each other over the Boat Race course.

The 2012 Boat Race takes place on April 7, with Cambridge leading Oxford 80 wins to 76 overall.

For more information on the 2012 squads, visit www.theboatrace.org.

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