The Oxford-Cambridge boat race is one of Britain’s oldest varsity competitions. On Sunday the 7th of April London Cornish Rowers had the opportunity to be a part of this competition’s illustrious history , rowing the boat race course in a replica Oxbridge gig from the 1800’s against a team of ‘Cornish All-stars’ in an equivalent boat. The race was one of several organised by the TTRA (Thames Traditional Rowing Association) as a warm up to the main boat race happening that afternoon.
The day started bright and early at the University College London boathouse where we set eyes upon our boat, and rival crew, for the first time. Cam, our replica Cambridge boat was similar in form to a Cornish Gig but with two extra seats and most notably, square and incredibly heavy wooden oars which took some getting used to.
We hopped in our boat and joined the procession downstream to Putney Bridge and the start line for the boat race. The oars took some getting used to but we could all feel the potential power this boat had with the two extra rowers making a real difference. Upon arrival at Putney, we had a brief lunch stop before returning to the boat and taking our place on the start line for our showdown with Isis, the Oxford gig being rowed by our Cornish rivals.
The flag dropped, and we were off. Briefly holding off Isis with a strong start from ourselves, our competitors quickly built up a sizeable lead. Undeterred, we quickly settled into a rhythm and produced a strong consistent row, trying to enjoy the privilege of rowing on this famous course despite the archaic oars and lack of padded seats. After a strong finish we crossed the finish line and paddled back to the UCL boat club, battered and bruised but proud of our efforts on what was a long, hard row against very strong competition.
After disembarking, there was just about time to dash up to Hammersmith Bridge and catch the finish of all 4 ‘proper’ boat races. Thankfully, it appeared our honorary performance for Cambridge had not jinxed the actual side as they went on secure victory in all races. After the culmination of the Men’s A race, it was off to the pub to cap off a truly great day.
A big thank you to Naomi for her excellent coxing, Ariane for some top draw stroking, Will for his exquisite blazer/lycra combo, Phil for stepping up last minute, Pants for his impression of a woman in labour during the final few strokes, Steve for inspiring us all with his ingenuous ‘jumper wrapped in parcel tape’ make-shift seat and Fallon and Leanne for their super rowing in the bow seats.
A great day and one I would definitely recommend taking part in.
Words by Tom Kennett
L-R Ariane, Naomi, Leanne, Tom, Pants, Fallon, Will and Phil behind the camera