A formidable looking German crew assembled on the Tideway this afternoon in order to take on the Oxford Blue Boat.
Containing five of the Gold medal winning eight from London 2012 plus three other Olympians and an U23 Silver medal winner, the German crew possessed an impressive track record.
Oxford, who named their boat this morning after Acer Nethercott, their former cox who died earlier this year, have pedigree of their own, both stroke man Malcolm Howard from Canada and Briton, Constantine Louloudis at 7 raced in the same Olympic VIIIs final as the five Germans, winning Silver and Bronze respectively.
The first piece of work, scheduled from the start to Chiswick Steps, saw the German crew on the Surrey station with the Dark Blues on Middlesex. In driving rain at the start the Germans hit 45 and Oxford 46 strokes a minute with Oxford gaining the early advantage.
Settling at a steady rhythm of 36, Oxford maintained their lead but the crews were still close with umpire Boris Rankov issuing repeated warnings to the Germans, which they failed to heed. The result was a clash of blades passing Barn Elms boathouse – a clash which saw the Germans lose more than Oxford. With their composure intact, Howard quickly re-established the Blue Boat’s rhythm and from there on Oxford stroke by stroke pulled away from the German internationals.
Under Hammersmith Bridge Oxford had a lead of just under 2 lengths and enough clear water to move across from their station on to the Surrey side by St. Paul’s School. Consistently now at 35 compared to the Germans’ 36, Oxford continued to pull away. At Chiswick Steps, where this race ended, Oxford had a lead of 3 lengths.
Staying on the same stations for the second race starting at the top of Chiswick Eyot, both crews again set off at a high rate – Oxford at 46, the Germans slightly lower at 42. Again, Oxford edged into an early lead and again the umpire was kept busy, repeatedly warning both the Germans and Oxford.
Germany were more tenacious this time and using the Surrey bend to their advantage pulled back the Oxford lead and were ahead by ½ length at the crossing. The crews were still being warned as they inched closer and closer to each other, as Oxford fought to pull back the German advantage. Shortly before the bandstand the inevitable happened, a massive clash and tangle of blades which saw Oxford coach Sean Bowden call a halt to the race from his following launch.
Rankov then took control and swiftly had the crews realigned and restarted, with Oxford showing great composure to contain the Germans who went into a narrow lead from the re-start. Rating 38 strokes-a-minute to the Germans 35, Oxford’s determination and cohesion saw them pull back the advantage. Keeping to the same high rate the Dark Blues pulled away from Germany and, by the finish at Barnes Bridge, led by 1 length.
A satisfying afternoon’s work for Oxford and, while not an Olympic final, satisfaction earned for Louloudis and Howard.