Oxford's 1994 Women's Blue Boat takes to the water once more.
By Lebby Eyres
We've still got it. That was the verdict after one cox, eight rowers, eight husbands—including our former coach!—and 21 children turned up at Henley on March 30 to celebrate our 20-year reunion of the 1994 Oxford Women's Blue Boat.
The first thing that became apparent was that we all still had our kit. Whether this is testament to the quality of Godfrey's clothing or just the fact none of us had actually set foot in a boat for many a year remains unclear, but it seems the blue puffas, white trimmed zephyrs, shiny leggings and, yes, those highly prized Beefeater Gin tops have had pride of place in our wardrobes for two entire decades.
So, we looked the part — but could we still row together, 20 years on? Certainly it was a little tricky getting the boat onto the water and the blades in the right place, but we managed with the help, I'm ashamed to say, of the husbands. Once on the water, it was amazing to discover how much we'd forgotten, despite countless hours spent doing the miles on the Thames. Tap spin? Backing down? It was all we could do to remember who was stroke and who was bow side.
The moment of truth awaited. First fours, then sixes, and then all eight of us were rowing together once more. Yes, there were a few scraped knuckles and sore hands, but we more or less balanced the boat and maintained a good solid rating of 23 for some steady state. Steady state, remember that? Mindful we had an audience of offspring to impress, we wound it up and managed to hit 36 with a push for ten. It's not an exaggeration to say it was glorious to feel the boat move underneath us, perfectly sat, and see some pretty good puddles go by. We even got a cry of "Come on, Oxford" from the bank —though they must have thought this year's Blue Boat were getting on a bit.
After the outing we wandered down to watch younger, fitter versions of ourselves compete in this year's Henley Boat Races. Passing a losing Blondie crew sobbing on the Leander pontoon, I reflected on the very real pain of losing that Boat Race 20 years ago. To those girls, I would like to say: yes, it hurts, and it will go on hurting for quite a while. You might even find yourself racing it all over again in your dreams for years to come.
But what I've learned, and was reminded of at our reunion, is that while the pain of defeat fades, the friendships forged in a rowing boat last forever. We used to be a team, and when we got into that boat again, we were a team once more. It's just a shame Cambridge didn't turn up.