In the first of the fixtures used by the Blue Boat coaches to refine their final selections, it was Cambridge who took to the water against a strong University of Washington eight over two pieces of work on the Tideway this afternoon.
The Washington crew, known as the Huskies are based around the oarsmen that won the Temple Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta in 2012, much the same eight went on to win the Head of the Charles later in the year.
Huskies six man Conlin Macabe won a silver in the Canadian VIII at London 2012 while behind him at 5 Alex Bunkers is a current U23 World Champion from the US eight, with Marcus Bowyer a former GB junior international at 4.
Cambridge however were not to be outdone in the experience department. Four returning Blues in Steve Dudek, Alexander Scharp, Niles Garratt and Olympic Bronze medallist and Light Blue President George Nash, were accompanied by double Olympian Milan Bruncvik who, if he goes on to compete in The Boat Race, will be the first Czech oarsman to do so. Ty Otto at 3 is a former Husky while Alexander Fleming stroked the Brown crew who lost in the final of the Grand at Henley in 2012.
Cambridge won the toss for stations and chose Surrey. From a free start with both crews rating 44 it was Washington who took a slight early lead which, in this first piece to Chiswick Steps, they never relinquished. Settling at 36 and with a smooth style the Huskies slowly crept away from the Light Blues who settled at 35.
Passing the Mile Post Cambridge with a more robust technique couldn’t contain Washington and with the lead now at a length, Henry Fieldman in the cox’s seat could do very little to get the Light Blues back on terms.
At Hammersmith Bridge the American crew with a good half-length of clear water briefly took the inside of the bend and Cambridge’s water, but there was no warning from umpire Matthew Pinsent. Cambridge now down at 33 then slowly lost touch with the Huskies who pulled out to a lead of 2 ¾ lengths by Chiswick Eyot.
The winning verdict for Washington at Chiswick Steps was 2 lengths, but only because they had briefly stopped around the Eyot not knowing where the finish line was. The unofficial time was 11 mins 25 seconds.
In the second piece rowed from the Blue Windows (a point on the river adjudged to be half way along the championship course – and where artists Julian Trevelyan formerly had his studio) to the finishing post at Mortlake, Cambridge put up a more determined row. Both crews again went off the start at 44 and with the Surrey bend in their favour the Light Blues pushed out to a ¼ length lead.
This was short lived however, with a controlled looking Husky crew using all their experience to match Cambridge’s 38 strokes per minutes, pulling back the advantage by the time the crews reached the crossing. The visitors continued to power through Cambridge despite the Light Blues best efforts, to lead by ¼ length at the Bandstand and ¾ at Barnes Bridge, from where they steadily showed their authority to pull out to 3 lengths by the finishing post, in an unofficial time of 8mins 57seconds.