Thrills and Spills for the Boat Race Trial Eights
Oxford provided the thrills and Cambridge the spills on the Tideway as the men’s crews took part in their annual Trial Eights fixtures on 13th December. The overriding impression afterwards was that the BNY Mellon Boat Race on 27 March will be a more closely matched contest than it has been for a while.
Oxford’s two crews, named Business and Pleasure, fought side-by-side for much of the course but Pleasure- with returning Blue Jamie Cook at seven – gained ground over the second half and hung on in a frantic finish for victory by three-quarters of a length.
Each of Cambridge’s crews, named Fuerte (‘Strong’ in Spanish) and Listo (Clever), suffered misfortune early in their trial: Listo’s cox box stopped working almost immediately while Fuerte suffered a crab in front of Harrods Village but recovered their composure quickly and romped away to victory by two-and-a-half lengths.
The last time these athletes raced on the Thames between Putney and Mortlake was November’s Fours Head, when a Cambridge crew were 15 seconds ahead of their nearest Dark Blue rivals.
“We got a good beating in the Fours Head and that’s always been a pretty useful marker. We have a lot of catching up to do just to be competitive,” admitted Oxford coach Sean Bowden, who gives little away but can hardly have failed to be impressed by the way his squad handled themselves in a tight race.
Business won the toss and chose the Surrey station but were a length down by the Town Buoy. Pleasure – with Isis veteran Jorgen Tveit at stroke, Cook and Oxford president Morgan Gerlak behind him – looked strong and sharp if a little short.
However Business, stroked by Isis oarsman Nik Hazell and with returning Blue Will Geffen at seven, established a longer rhythm early and they clawed back to go through Hammersmith Bridge level.
According to umpire Simon Harris, the former Great Britain junior international Sam Collier “tried a little too hard” in the Pleasure cox’s seat. Harris issued at least seven warnings, with an increasingly strong tone, as Collier leaned hard on his rival Olivia Cleary around the outside of the Hammersmith bend.
However, Pleasure began to settle into a more effective rhythm as the crews approached Chiswick Eyot and gradually they gained a length advantage by Barnes. Both crews charged for the finish, Pleasure taking their rate to 38 to win in a time of 16 minutes 55.3 seconds.
Bowden seemed pleased with the outcome, saying: “For us a big part of it is to create a good race.”
His Cambridge counterpart Steve Trapmore may not have enjoyed as close a race but he was impressed by the composure of both crews in dealing with their adversities.
“The Boat Race is full of unpredictability, restarts and different conditions,” he said. “To go through that now is really positive and powerful because it shows the team that anything might happen and you have to deal with it.”
The rowers in Listo were forced to make their own calls after cox Hugo Ramambason’s amplification died within the first minute of racing. Perhaps that stopped them hitting their rhythm off the start as their rating stayed high while Fuerte made an effective stride.
With Lance Tredell, a former GB senior international, at stroke, they took a canvas lead by the Mile Post and were a third of a length up when Luke Juckett’s blade caught at the finish and the resulting crab took the handle behind his back.
It was a second time unlucky for Juckett, whose crab in the Boat Race two years ago saw Oxford take full advantage. This time, however, the cox Ian Middleton and his crew were back in their rhythm almost immediately and had retaken the lead by the St Paul’s School ramp in Hammersmith.
American stern pair Ben Ruble and Cambridge President Henry Hoffstot were unable to establish as effective a method in Listo, who looked frantic as their rivals moved out in front at Chiswick Pier, eventually finishing eight seconds clear in a time of 17:12.0.
Australian Alister Taylor celebrated victory in the Fuerte three seat. The Tideway Scullers’ member will by 38 on race day and, if selected, would become the oldest rower ever in a Boat Race.
Thames RC had held their own trial eights earlier in the day. Head coach Ben Lewis, a former Oxford Brookes oarsman, must have allowed himself a small grin when ‘Poly’ beat ‘Red Brick’ in their race.
Pleasure: Dominic Parr, Guy Arnold, George McKirdy, James White, Morgan Gerlak, Ben McSweeney, Jamie Cook, Jorgen Tveit, cox: Sam Collier
Fuerte: Peter Carey, Patrick Elwood, Alister Taylor, Peter Rees, Charlie Fisher, Ali Abbasi, Luke Juckett, Lance Tredell cox: Ian Middleton
Listo: Piers Kasas, Felix Newman, Sam Ringer, Joe Carroll, Clemens Auersperg, Vincent Bertram, Henry Hoffstot, Ben Ruble, cox: Hugo Ramambason
Report by Martin Gough
Photos by Getty Images