Oxford swept the board at the 2015 Boat Race, with victory in the women’s, men’s, and both reserve competitions. The women finished six-and-a-half lengths ahead of Cambridge, with 19 seconds to spare — winning for the seventh year in eight. Triumph for the women’s crew was doubly historic because this was the first year they had competed on the same course and the same day as the men. In an article published ahead of the event, we spoke to Olympian Caryn Davies and fellow crew members during training.
By Richard Lofthouse
It’s a landmark Boat Race for women this year, because for the first time (and not before time) the women will battle it out on the same stretch of the Thames, on the same day, as the men’s. A week ahead of the final selection at a weigh-in and press event in London last month, I captured the anticipation and nerves among the Oxford women’s crew and supporters when I went to watch them training.
Everyone is a teensy, weensy bit on edge, but covering it up really well. To my surprise Jen Ehr (who has since been selected as cox) explains that she is just 19, a fresher, having matriculated last year to Pembroke, in engineering. Needless to say, she is not a greenhorn at rowing, having already coxed at St Paul’s School, the boathouse of which opens directly onto the Thames in London. She says the main challenge of the Tideway course is steering. ‘It’s about how to position the boat for the conditions.’ Therein, of course, lie all sorts of minute calculations relating to wind and tide and geography.
How’s she finding Oxford, I ask Davies. Great, she says; but we talk about how there is no escape from studies as there is on certain types of ‘football scholarship’ at certain types of US school. She notes that it is much harder to do a full-time MBA at Oxford and be a top rower than it was being a full-time athlete for the national US squad — which we all know is no picnic.
But this makes intuitive sense. Full-time athletes watch box sets of EastEnders and elevate their tired limbs. The only requirement outside physical exertion is consciously recovering. Good recovery benefits from a calm mind, not an overstimulated one.
The other question I ask concerns subject mix, and my hunch is proved right: apart from one English literature student and two MBAs, the entire women’s squad of twenty comprises solely medical science and science students. But it’s not for me to reason why this is.
Two hours later and we have raced up and down the Wallingford section of the Thames, where Oxford University Boat Club has its HQ at Fleming Boathouse. In Bosporos, a splendid honey-coloured wooden launch, we have followed the women’s crew and their coach, Canadian Christine Wilson. It is hard to know what they are trying to perfect today, but they do some hard starts. The sun shines, the chilly wind ruffles the surface of the Thames, and we all turn our minds to the bit further downstream where the tide flows in and out and the waves build.
Sponsored respectively by BNY Mellon and its UK-based subsidiary Newton, the men’s and women’s boat races are now back together, contested from Putney to Mortlake on the historic course that characterised the men’s race from its founding in 1829. The women’s race began in 1929.
Cambridge remains ahead in the overall tally of victories in both men’s and women’s races. We at Oxford Today wish the women’s crew and the men’s every good luck on Saturday.
Oxford’s women’s crew:
Bow: Maxie Scheske (Magdalen) — 66.6kg
2: Anastasia Chitty (Pembroke) — 69.6kg
3: Shelley Pearson (St Cross) — 70.0kg
4: Lauren Kedar (Exeter) — 75.4kg
5: Nadine Graedel Iberg (Lincoln) — 72.4kg
6: Emily Reynolds (Trinity) — 67.4kg
7: Maddy Badcott (Wadham) — 74.0kg
Stroke: Caryn Davies (Balliol) — 78.4kg
Cox: Jennifer Ehr (Pembroke) — 50.4kg
The crew’s total weight (including cox) is 624.2kg, compared to Cambridge’s 630.8kg.
Oxford’s men’s crew:
Bow: William Geffen (Keble) — 82.2kg
2: Thomas Swartz (Keble) — 76.6kg
3: Henry Goodier (Oriel) — 88.2kg
4: James O’Connor (LMH) — 83.4kg
5: James Cook (St Cross) — 83.8kg
6: Michael DiSanto (Trinity) — 90.8kg
7: Sam O’Connor (Christ Church) — 88.6kg
Stroke: Constantine Louloudis (Trinity) — 92.2kg
Cox: William Hakim (Univ) — 54.6kg
Total weight including cox is 740.4kg (Cambridge’s is 781.4kg).
River and boathouse images by Richard Lofthouse. Portrait of Caryn Davies from Rowing Blazers © Adrian Krajewski / Jack Carlson, reproduced with permission. Oxford women’s victory celebration and crew lineup from London weigh-in © The BNY Mellon Boat Race, reproduced with permission.