The countdown has officially begunCicely Norman

Wednesday 30th November marked the beginning of the 2023 Boat Race campaign. According to tradition, the presidents of the losing crews from the previous year throw down the gauntlet to the victorious presidents. This year, Oxford women and Cambridge men challenged their opponents to “an eight oared race to be held over the Championship Course on Sunday 26th March 2023”. Needless to say, the challenge was accepted.

The Cambridge presidents for 2022/23 are Ollie Boyne and Caoimhe Dempsey. Boyne, who learnt to cox at Cambridge, is studying for a PhD at Downing and won the Isis-Goldie race (the men’s reserve race) in 2021. Dempsey (PhD, Newnham) was part of the crew who took victory in the women’s race last year in record time.

Their counterparts are Tassilo Von Mueller (MSc, Hertford), who brings experience as a former Princeton and Germany Junior/U23 rower, and Sara Helin (MEng, St Peter’s), who has twice competed in Osiris (Oxford women’s second boat).

After four high-quality Blue boats took to the water last year, there will be lots of new faces in the crews next March. Each president seemed to relish the challenge of building new team bonds and experiences, alongside making the most of the fresh enthusiasm and excitement the new personnel will bring.

Speaking to Varsity after the formal challenge, Helin discussed these personal aspects of her role – the president is there to show leadership, and be a source of support throughout.

Von Mueller was also keen to highlight the team aspect to the campaign, describing how he is looking forward to everyone getting to know each other more and how training camp and practice races all feed into this, and in turn help the result on the water next March.

It is this end result which each president is ultimately focused on. Trial VIIIs are fast approaching, followed by several fixtures in the new year. Boyne explained how these fixtures are looked at based on how they affect the Boat Race. It is about learning lessons and gaining experience which can then be applied on race-day, rather than reading too much into any early-season results in isolation.

Throughout the evening, there was also a focus on the participation work that the Boat Race and its partners do. We heard from recipients of the Boat Race Bursary Scheme about how projects are working to make rowing more accessible to young people across the country.


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Talking specifically about pathways to the Blue boats at Cambridge, Dempsey made it clear just how important the college system and CUBC development squads are to the crews and the Boat Race. As encouragement for anyone just coming to the end of their first novice term, she praised how people who first learn at college level have made the Blue boat, and, for instance Imogen Grant recently, have gone on to success at the World Championships.

Crew announcements for 2023’s race will follow next term, but for now - with just over 100 days to go until the 77th Women’s and 168th Men’s Boat Races – the countdown has officially begun.