The Newton Women's Boat Races
We all knew that April 10th and 11th would be momentous occasions in women’s sport in this country, and the pinnacle in a season which has seen tremendous improvement from everyone in the squad.
However, it is hard to explain just how special a weekend it was. With both crews having good results in fixtures and races leading up to the Newton Women’s Boat Race and Osiris-Blondie, there was a strong anticipation in the squad that we could do something really special on the Thames.
Osiris set the tone for the weekend with a resounding win by 42 seconds, equivalent to 15 lengths, over Cambridge. The light blues had a strong start, leading Osiris after the first couple of strokes, but our power and commitment to rowing long and hard soon proved to give boat speed that meant we marched away, with clear water by about the Mile Post. Although held on the day before the other races, it was great to see supporters for both Oxford and Cambridge making a notable presence along the banks of the Thames. In particular, cheers from Hammersmith and coming into the finish line lifted the crew and the BBC sending their filming helicopter added to the atmosphere and helped Osiris set the women’s boat race course record of 18 minutes 58 seconds.
Saturday was the Blue Boat’s turn to attempt to paint the Thames dark blue. The wind was notably stronger than the previous day, providing a range of water conditions as the course wound its way from Putney to Chiswick. Despite the choppy conditions, we got through the start strokes and settled onto a good rhythm that immediately showed Cambridge, and the world, that we believed we deserved to win the race. With a lead of about 3/4 of a length coming into the Fulham bend, which favoured Cambridge as they were on the Middlesex station, we executed a big push to break out to clear water and properly control the race. The thousands of people who lined the banks fueled our determination to make our mark, and by the end of the course our lead was 19 seconds (6.5 lengths) as we crossed the line in a time of 19 minutes 45 seconds.
As I’m sure any of you who were around the course on the days of the races noticed, our sponsors did a fantastic job of ensuring the event was a huge success. We cannot thank them enough for all their help, especially Helena Morissey and Newton Investment Management for seeing the potential in our event and providing unwavering support during our transition to the Tideway. Being involved in the first women’s Boat Race on the Tideway was a humbling experience; so many women had worked towards the event and to benefit from their passion for equality was an immense privilege. Throughout the season, our coaching team and support staff have gone above and beyond the call of duty to enable us to be so ready to race, supremely confident in our preparation. We are so grateful to them, and so glad that we could bring home both women’s trophies to share with everyone who has had involvement in OUWBC over the years.