With red flags flying a meeting was called with the umpires and it was sensibly decided that racing would be just one piece from the University Stone in Putney to Chiswick Steps. Leander won the toss and chose the Middlesex Station so, to some degree, their intentions were clear and everyone was ready for a hard race from the “Go”. The crews lined up with a fast tail wind blowing over a weak tide in a very full river making for bouncy and choppy conditions particularly in the early stages.

Both crews got off hard but Oxford showed just a little ahead along the boats and were able to build a half-length lead up to the start of the Fulham Bend. The difficult water was taking its toll with both crews struggling to keep their rowing clean. The coxes were giving little away and, with warnings for “both crews” on the bend, the crews clashed several times making life even harder to establish the kind of rhythm they would need for the race ahead.

Things calmed down up the Mile Post straight and Leander were able to press on and gradually draw level by Harrods. With the Surrey bend now coming in to play we were set for a great battle. With more warnings to both crews the race ended up on a tight Surrey line as they shot Hammersmith Bridge with Oxford pressing on again and starting to creep ahead. Warnings to Leander soon after resulted in a clash and a boat stopping crab in the Oxford boat that brought the race to a grinding halt which ultimately led to the disqualification of Leander.

Umpire for the day Sir Matthew Pinsent quickly organised a restart as the crews passed St Paul’s and the boats were off in a mad dash of super high intensity rowing with Leander coming out ahead. A further clash just before the finish, but this time it was Oxford’s Will Denegri more at fault, resulted in a messy end to a day that had plenty of great rowing along with a more than necessary amount of drama. So, typical stuff in many ways, with good work to reflect on plus the usual valuable experiences to be learned from.

When asked about the difference between how he approaches the fixtures racing for Leander vs his time at Oxford preparing for the Boat Race, Jack Tottem responded:

“While the priority at Leander is not match racing in the same way as the Boat Race crews, the fixtures still provide an invaluable opportunity to get some speed work in on the challenging waters of the Tideway, as we build towards the Head of the River. Moreover, to practise some side-by-side with some of the strongest domestic crews is always a useful exercise.

Our main takeaways from our fixture with Oxford will include improving our rough water handling, as well as developing a racing strategy that plays to our strengths. We look forward to facing Cambridge in less than a fortnight!”

Words: Sean Bowden
Photos: Benedict Tufnell

Watch the full race here: