Rowers, here a Lightweight Women's 4+, had to contend with a strong headwind on the ThamesVicky Gillard

On Saturday, a team of nine crews from Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club and Cambridge University Lightweight Rowing Club, along with five from Cambridge University Boat Club, raced the full boat race course backwards at Fullers Four’s Head of the River. This was the first time on the boat race course for many of the athletes, and everyone got a typical tideway experience with a strong headwind and choppy water in the last two kilometres of the race after Hammersmith Bridge.

“We hit some very rough winds just after Hammersmith Bridge, but having established a solid rhythm and press throughout the first half of the race, we managed to keep pushing through the rough waters and winds and thus keep speed and morale high towards the finish line.”

Luckily, the conditions didn’t faze the Cambridge athletes. Reflecting on the race, Laura Foster, part of the 4+ that took the win in their division as well as being the fastest overall in their boat class (21:31.0), said “The positivity in this crew is incredible, and we saw the rough water in the back half of the course as an opportunity to thrive in a challenging situation. I’m really grateful to have had the opportunity to race with these women, and I can’t wait to see how much more speed we can gain in the next several months.”

CUWBC had a fantastic day overall, with their openweight entries placing both first and third in the Academic Champ 4- and Champ 4+ categories, and with the lightweights who competed in the same events coming fourth and fifth respectively.

Winning CUWBC 4+ crew celebrate a very successful day of racingJames Lee (J Lee Photrow)

CULRC also entered a coxless and coxed four in preparation for their boat race being held on the tideway for the first time in 2019. Granta ‘B’ placed second in Academic Challenge 4+, and Granta ‘A’ placed sixth in Academic Champ 4-.

Connor O’Pray, who raced in Granta ‘B’, was very happy with their race. “Every part of the race went to plan. We had a strong and collected start which settled into a firm high-rate pace. This allowed us to take advantage of the tailwind across the initial part of the course. We made good time to Hammersmith bridge and then collectively adjusted our stroke to fight the gusty headwind across the final portion of the race. We really pulled together as a crew and credit for that should go to the excellent coaching we’ve received from Astrid. It was surreal to represent Cambridge for the first time and I’ll continue to train just as hard to continue having this incredible opportunity”.


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Ida Jacobsen, from the winning CUWBC ‘A’ 4-, explained how she found her first experience of the tideway conditions. “While both Lily and I had never raced on the Tideway before this weekend, both Tricia and Pippa know the course quite well, having both raced and trained on the Thames numerous times. So, although the Tideway is difficult to steer and although the water was quite choppy, the experience of our bow pair instilled a good amount of calm and confidence in the boat going into the race.

“We went into the race knowing that we needed to be aggressive off the start, and this tactic enabled us to sit comfortably in our rhythm throughout the race. We hit some very rough winds just after Hammersmith Bridge, but having established a solid rhythm and press throughout the first half of the race, we managed to keep pushing through the rough waters and winds and thus keep speed and morale high towards the finish line.

“Coming off the water we were extremely happy to find out that we were the fastest women’s four in the women’s academic championship category, and it gives us a good amount of confidence in the overall program as we head into our winter training segment”.

After this strong experience, the squad is looking forward to preparing for the next training block, which includes GB Senior and U23 trials, Fairburns regatta, and finally Trial Eights in December.

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