The men’s reserves celebrate their victory over OxfordYouTube - 247dottv

Despite freezing weather conditions and change of location to Eton Dorney, Cambridge’s men’s lightweight eight, women’s lightweight eight and men’s reserves beat their Oxford counterparts to win the Francombe Cup. In the Varsity encounters, the Light Blues were hoping to win as convincingly as they did last year, but last time the races were held at Eton Dorney in 2013, Oxford won both encounters.

The day did not start as Cambridge planned, as the women’s reserves struggled to cope with the wind. The Light Blue squad made up entirely of undergraduates started poorly and allowed Oxford to get into their stride and put clear daylight between the two crews. The Dark Blues’ neat blade work meant enabled them to stay in front, but Cambridge did manage to make inroads into Oxford’s lead in the second half of the race. The conditions made the winning time slow, as Oxford crossed the line in 8 minutes 15 seconds as comprehensive winners.

In the men’s reserves both teams made a clean even start, but Cambridge managed to nudge ahead over the first couple of minutes. The Dark Blues drew level with Cambridge just before the half way stage, but the Light Blues responded almost immediately with a push of their own by increasing their stroke rate. After four and a half minutes Oxford started to look scrappy as Cambridge began to eke out a further advantage. Oxford tried to charge the Light Blues down over the last 500 metres but ultimately ran out of water to race over, enabling the Light Blues to clinch victory in 7 minutes 24 seconds.

Cambridge’s women’s lighweight eight won by half a lengthYoutube - 247dottv

The Varsity races were much tighter affairs, kicking off with the women’s lightweight eights. Both teams got up momentum quickly, but the Dark Blues took an early lead by a whisker as both crews started rowing at 38 strokes a minute. Although Oxford soon dropped their stroke rate to 33, they managed to gain half a length over the Light Blue crew just before the halfway stage. Cambridge, however, maintained their stroke rate and this began to pay dividends after 4 and a half minutes as they nudged their bow ahead of the Dark Blue boat. Oxford tried to find a way back into the race, but Naomi Pygott set a fantastic rate for the rest of her crew as the Light Blues crossed the line also in 7 minutes 24 seconds – and, crucially, half a length ahead of the Dark Blue boat.

The final race of the day, involving the men’s lightweight eights, was the closest affair of the contest. Once again Oxford took an early lead, but Cambridge closed the gap within the two minutes and managed to pull half a length clear. The Dark Blues did not let the Light Blues off the hook but were trailing at the halfway stage by a ¾-length. As a consequence, Oxford suddenly launched a counter attack and continued to close the gap, so they were neck and neck throughout the final stages. Nevertheless, the Light Blues neater blade movement eventually paid off, fending off the Dark Blues by 1/3 of a length in 6 minutes 26 seconds.


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Lightweight eights Head Coach Dan Janes said, “Both the men’s and women’s lightweight crews showed incredible resilience in their races. In both races the crews were up against two of the strongest Oxford Lightweight crews in history. We did not intend to be down at the start, but we had walked through those scenarios in training and in our mental preparation sessions. The lightweight and the heavyweight crews share the same facilities in Ely and I am sure these results will give both the men and women’s heavyweight eights confidence for the weekend coming.”

Women’s Reserves (4+): Aurelia Dixon, Jamie Fox, Jessica Godden, Louise Brett, Tara Slade.

Men’s Reserves (4+): Jonathan Shoesmith, Nicholas Rice, Hugo Ventham, Thomas Roe, Cat Bourne

Women’s Lightweight Eights Blues: Ellie Thompson, Victoria Walker, Debs Oakley, Lucy Harris, Olivia Hamilton, Rebecca Hartwell, Miriam Aspley, Naomi Pygott, Stephanie Payne

Men’s Lightweight Eights Blues: Calum Macrae, Julian Sprosmann, Zenas Van Veldhoven, Neil Paul, Theo Weinberger, Felix Koninx, Ben Mackworth, Sam Philpott, Juliet Armstrong

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