‘Woody’ and ‘Buzz’, both boats named after two dogs owned by CUBC Women’s Chief Coach Patrick Ryan, put in solid performances on the Tideway@theboatrace/Twitter

In the Women’s Trial VIIIs race earlier today (06/01), ‘Woody’ got the better of ‘Buzz’ over the 4.25-mile stretch of the Championship Course.

Cambridge University Boat Club’s (CUBC) women suffered a setback last month (17/12) after their Trial VIIIs race was postponed due to a positive case of COVID-19 within the squad, as The Boat Race Company Ltd. subsequently announced a later date in January for the event.

Speaking before the race, CUBC Women’s Chief Coach Patrick Ryan expressed his eagerness to watch the two crews race: “I’ve been very impressed by the way that our squad has approached Trial VIIIs. They have used the Christmas break to refocus and prepare for the lead into The Boat Race, and I’m excited to see the racing on Thursday.”

He continued: “The crews are a great blend of experience and youth, where Olympians are backed up by those who have learned to row at Cambridge.” Split between the two boats was the Kiwi Olympic pair of Ruby Tew and Grace Prendergast, with the former earning a fourth-place finish in the women’s eight back at the 2016 Rio Olympics and the latter taking a gold and silver medal at Tokyo in the coxless pair and eight respectively.

Woody’s cox Dylan Whitaker, along with CUBC Women’s President Bronya Sykes, Caoimhe Dempsey, Sarah Portsmouth, and Adriana Perez Rotondo were returning figures from the winning Light Blue crew of The Boat Race 2021.

Meanwhile, CUBC Women’s President Bronya Sykes spoke on the squad’s preparation for the event: “After the delay to Trial VIIIs added an additional challenge to our season, being able to race the Championship Course is very important for focusing us back together.

“We have really got to know each other well through Michaelmas and are very close as a team, but every year Trial VIIIs unleashes an intense, competitive drive between the crews.” She continued: “Matched racing has the potential to produce some tight races, and tests each athlete's response under pressure, as well as coxing tactics, and Trial VIIIs are a great opportunity for the coaches to analyse the athletes over the full course.”

Turning to the race action, Umpire John Garrett, who is also the named Women’s Boat Race Umpire on Sunday 3rd April, completed his briefing and oversaw Buzz win the coin toss. The crew opted to start on the Surrey side, leaving Woody stationed on Middlesex.

With flat water gracing the Tideway, the race got underway at the expected time of 14:35, and straight away resulted in Woody gaining a lead that they extended to ½ length at Barn Elms.

Cruising past Mile Post and into the opening of the first Surrey bend, Woody had a margin of almost a length over their opposite number. But a slight dip in pace allowed Buzz to slip back into contention, closing the gap to ⅓ length.

At Hammersmith Bridge, Buzz continued to chip away at the margin, with some shrewd coxing from Jasper Parish really taking the race to the crew in blue.


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However, passing the iconic St Paul’s and coming out of the bend witnessed Woody stroke Sarah Portsmouth put the power down and pushed her boat back out to a length lead, making it difficult for the Buzz crew to operate in the puddles.

Approaching Chiswick Pier, Woody held their lead but were warned to move back to Middlesex, picking up their third caution of the race.

With the order remaining the same as both boats emerged the other side of Barnes Bridge, Woody crossed the finish line just under a length ahead of Buzz, marking an end to a spectacular clash that the blue crew led for the entire 4.25-mile dash.

After the success of both Men’s and Women’s Trial VIIIs races, CUBC’s finalised crews will next take to the Championship Course on Sunday 3rd April in the 167th Men’s and 76th Women’s Boat Races.

Crews

‘Buzz’

Bow: Caroline Breeden (Queens’)

2: Jo Matthews (St John’s)

3: Nicole Molina (Darwin)

4: Jenna Armstrong (Jesus)

5: Clare Hole (St Catharine’s)

6: Ruby Tew (Queens’)

7: Adriana Perez Rotondo (Newnham)

Stroke: Caoimhe Dempsey (Newnham)

Cox: Jasper Parish (Clare Hall)

‘Woody’

Bow: Alex Riddell-Webster (Murray Edwards)

2: Elena von Mueller (Jesus)

3: Paige Badenhorst (Magdalene)

4: Vera Kunz (Gonville & Caius)

5: Grace Prendergast (Queens’)

6: Millie Hopkins (Newnham)

7: Bronya Sykes (Gonville & Caius)

Stroke: Sarah Portsmouth (Newnham)

Cox: Dylan Whitaker (King’s)