The new OUWBC line-up faced their first official test today in a warm up fixture against Molesey Boat Club, one of the country’s premier women’s crews.
Oxford sported 5 returning Blues from last year’s victorious eight, plus at stroke American multiple World and Olympic Champion Caryn Davies.
In calm but cold conditions Oxford chose the Middlesex station for the first of three pieces. Sprinting off the start at 42 strokes per minute they were 2 pips higher than Molesey which helped them establish the advantage from the outset despite an early warning from umpire Sarah Winckless.
Racing past the Putney boathouses Oxford settled to a strong rhythm of 34 and powered away from Molesey, also at 34, who desperately tried to hang onto their coat tails.
Oxford continued to move away and had established a clear water lead by the town buoy. There was nothing Molesey could do against the power Oxford were putting down and their cox, former Cambridge Blue Henry Fieldman could only watch the dark blues disappear. The lead was 4 lengths at the Mile Post and continued to increase ultimately to 29 seconds at Hammersmith Bridge where the race ended.
For the second of the three pieces the crews lined up at the Mile Post for a race that would take them to Chiswick Steps, again with Oxford on the Middlesex station. This was a free start with the crews already moving when Winckless started them, Molesey having been given a 1½ length lead.
As the north easterly wind picked up Molesey set off at 36, Oxford at 33. This time Molesey gave Oxford more of a challenge, much of this due to some aggressive coxing from Fieldman, who was repeatedly warned. Yet again Oxford showed their power, pulling back a length of Molesey’s advantage in the first 2 minutes, then edging through them passing Harrods.
Molesey showed a lot of tenacity to keep the lead to ½ length at Hammersmith Bridge, where again Winckless had to warn both crews, but now Oxford turned on the afterburners and going around the outside of the bend pulled the lead out to 1 ½ lengths at St. Paul’s boat house.
From here the tale was similar to the previous piece with Oxford continuing to move away, finishing at Chiswick Steps with a 4 length verdict.
Cold rain was now falling heavily and the wind was brisker making water conditions uncomfortable for both crews for the final piece. Oxford took the Surrey station in another free start this time from the Band Stand – between Chiswick Steps and Barnes Bridge – starting a length down on Molesey.
The story of this piece was much the same as the earlier two however. Oxford again established a powerful rhythm of 32-33 strokes a minute. Molesey over rated them but could do nothing to prevent the dark blues quickly pull back the advantage and then relentlessly move away.
At Barnes Bridge where umpire Winckless was kept busy with warnings to both crews Oxford had already established a lead of ½ length. Again their power and cohesion saw them creep away from Molesey and very quickly it was apparent the crew in black wouldn’t be getting back on terms. At the Mortlake finishing post Oxford’s advantage was 28 seconds.
For Oxford this was a very satisfactory afternoon’s work in some typical Boat Race conditions. Despite relatively comfortable victories the experience of match racing on the Tideway will be invaluable come the Race itself on 11 April.