Cambridge University dominated at the Henley Boat Races, winning both varsity ‘Blue’ races and the women’s reserves race, thus retaining the Francombe Cup as the most successful university on the day for the third year in a row. Lady Margaret Boat Club (Cambridge) won the Men’s Intercollegiate Race and Cambridge also took the honours in the Men’s Alumni/Reserves Race.
Oxford pride was maintained by an emphatic win in the Women’s Alumnae Race and a victory for Keble College (Oxford) in the Women’s Intercollegiate Race.
The inaugural Peter Sutherland Memorial race between Leander and Upper Thames Rowing Club was won by Leander 1.75 lengths. Afterwards the crew were presented with their medals by the Prime Minster, Theresa May at Justin Sutherland’s home. Leander Coach, Ted Bainbridge said “This was our first side by side race of the season and being the inaugural race of the Peter Sutherland Memorial Race made it doubly special. Naturally, it was great to get a win to start the racing season off against a strong Upper Thames crew that gave us a good test.
Paddy George, Stroke for Leander said, “The conditions were really challenging with a strong headwind and choppy water so it would have been easy to make mistakes. However the guys did a stellar job at coping and put all the training we had done to good effect.”
In the men’s Lightweight Varsity race, both crews made a good start with Cambridge striking 45 to Oxford’s 43. Aggressive coxing by Cambridge cox, Dom Hall, saw them warned by umpire, Dave Hancock, as they pushed to establish an early lead of ½ length.
Raising the rate to 37 and attacking hard as the crew approached Remenham, the dark blues, on the Berks station, led by stroke Douglas Chesterton, were unable to reduce the lead of just over a length established by Cambridge who, with cleaner blade-work, enjoyed the luxury of being able to watch and then respond to the move.
At Fawley, Cambridge, still striking 37 had a 5 ½ second advantage over the lower rating Oxford. This advantage was maintained over the closing stages of the race with Cambridge crossing the line 1 ¾ lengths to the good in a time of 6:07.
This race has produced some extremely close contests in recent times, but 2017 was Cambridge’s year.
Cambridge were the quicker crew off the start striking 42 to Oxford’s 40, establishing an early ½ length advantage. This higher rate of striking was maintained throughout the race and, by Upper Thames, Cambridge had achieved clear water as the crews passed the massed Oxford supporters. The dark blues were tidy and long in the water, but at 31 to Cambridge’s 34, continued to give ground. At Fawley the crews were 11 secs apart and there was little Oxford, bravely driven on by stroke, Laure Bonfils, could do to challenge Cambridge, who enjoyed the win, verdict 3 ½ lengths, in a time of 6:45.
Women Lightweight Reserves
The tricky conditions on the start caused problems for the Cambridge pair of Rosie Boxall and Melody Swiers, allowing Oxford to take an early lead of 2 lengths. Warned by the umpire, Cambridge moved back onto station and settled to their race rhythm. By Remenham, Cambridge, again warned for steering had turned the table on the dark blues and now led by 2 lengths.
This advantage was extended to 15 seconds at Fawley and a final verdict of a win, distance ‘easily’ in a time of 8:05, was given by finish judges Mark Briegal and Jonathan Williams.
Ellie Hopwood, Cambridge University Boat Club Captain said, “As much as we are focused on winning our own boat race, to have seen light blue success from not only both the men and women’s lightweight boat races but also our reserve crews was truly incredible and shows the depth of both 2017 squads. All the athletes in our clubs, regardless of which crew they race in, push us on to set higher standards of ourselves every day and it was extremely special to see all that hard work come to fruition for every Cambridge crew on the water.”