The "Henley" Boat Races 2001
Written live and uploaded later.
A fine sunny day here in Nottingham, no hint of foot, mouth or flooding to be seen. The newly dredged Holme Pierrepont course is running all lanes again now, and the two universities are tossing for the choice of the third or fourth lanes in the centre of the course. The move, of course, was in fact dictated by the floods, which threatened to overwhelm Henley in the last week before the event, although the predicted rain was not in the end a problem. No matter, arrangements had already been made, and plenty of people have turned up to watch the racing.
Men's lightweight reserves race
In the choice of stations, the Cambridge reserves Granta won the toss and chose the South station. 250 metres, Nephthys have a half-length lead, extending to 3/4 length by the 500-metre mark. A stiff head-wind, but still 1:41 split for Nephthys, a respectable time. Nephthys down to rate 35, Granta dropping to 33 and now struggling. Nearing 1000 metres, Granta pushing, Nephthys nudge their rate up a pip to respond, and now Nephthys has exactly a length's lead, but can't quite break through to the clear water. Both crews neat in the headwind, getting their blades down to the water well. 1500 metres, Granta pushing back a little, slightly closing the gap, the question now is who has enough left in the tank for the final sprint. Granta still just over 33, Nephthys now at 37 as they near 250 metres to go, Granta up again to 35/36, and that gap is closing well Now Granta on a roll, the gap half a length, Nephthys have nowhere to go, but may just have space, a third of a length in it now, the final strokes, and it's over. Nephthys beat Granta by half a length, time 7:00.46. A superb race well-rowed from both reserve crews.
Women's reserves race
Oxford's second boat Osiris won the toss and chose the south station in lane 3. Osiris off striking slightly higher, and at 200 metres, a third of a length up on Blondie, though both crews are keeping it buzzing. Down into the cruise pace, Osiris at 35.5, and half a length up, and still inching away. Time to 500 metres, 1:47 for Oxford and they're 2/3 length up. Into the middle of the race, nearly at halfway, 3:41 to 1000 metres, and the gap is now a length and a half. Osiris looking very powerful and long at 36, Blondie rating 34 and unable to make an impression. The weight advantage of the Oxford reserves is only a couple of pounds per oarswoman, but they are making use of every ounce of it. Last year's losers, the Dark Blue second crew contains the entire OUWBC committee including President, and they can now relax and take their rate down, striking 32 and now well ahead of the Light Blues. Down past 250 metres to go, Osiris look unassailable now, but Blondie stop! The two-girl Jess Spalding just crabbed, stopping the crew completely. Blondie pick up rowing and set off again as umpire Di Ellis comes over to see if they are OK, but as they do, Oxford cross the line nearly 150 metres and 23.42 seconds ahead of them. The official time is 7:32, verdict initially given as "easily" in true Henley style.
Women's lightweight boat race
The headwind has picked up nastily for this, the lightest-weighted race in the programme, but both crews shoot off at 41 strokes a minute, Oxford perhaps with a slight lead. Oxford had won the toss for this race, and chose the northern station, on which by 250 metres they have just a few feet lead, with Cambridge closing up hard. Every scrap of technique counts in this race, the crews fighting the conditions as much as each other. Time to 500 metres 1:52, the crews pretty well level, Cambridge having picked up the early Oxford lead, and starting to push through. Both crews rating 36/37, 750 metres gone and the Cambridge bow pair now just past the Oxford bowball. They pass 1000 metres at 3 minutes 52, and a half-length ahead of the Dark Blues. Cambridge push through hard now, 750 metres to go, and still very tight, both crews rating high and Cambridge inch through to clear water. They are rowing powerfully through their rivals and still opening the gap. 500 to go, it's now a length and a half to Cambridge, this race should be in the bag as the shouts from spectators go up, everyone yelling for their favourites. Cambridge keep it spirited, the cox's cap bobbing emphatically with every catch, and his arms go up a stroke before the line as they take the first Light Blue win of the day. Time 7:37, verdict 3 lengths. A particularly impressive result for Cambridge stroke Sarah Tasker, at age thirty-nine probably the oldest competitor in these Races, and almost certainly the oldest ever to win the women's lightweight Boat Race.
Women's Boat Race
This toss was again won by Oxford, who like their reserves chose the southern station. An apt choice, as they have been coached by GB and Kingston RC guru Ian South for the last few weeks, as they were last year. Nine pounds advantage to the Dark Blues on weight, but they have to put that power in the water. The wind's still quite strong, but not quite as vicious as for the women's lightweights half an hour before. They're off, and within a few strokes Oxford have a canvas lead over Cambridge, both crews at 42. This short lead holds for the first few hundred metres, but isn't gained on, and Cambridge snapping at their heels hard. After 500 metres, Oxford start to edge out a little, sliding into a third of a length lead, but this race is still very tight. Another hard push before the halfway mark, and this takes them to virtually clear. Cambridge respond, 3:39 to the 1000 metres, and the Cambridge attack brings them a couple of seats back again. Now half a length between them, Cambridge continuing to push solidly, and Oxford rating 35 to hold them. Past 750 metres to go, still half a length, Cambridge rating 33, still moving, and Oxford tenaciously holding them, 5:35 to the 500 metres. Cambridge push again, do Oxford have anything to respond with, the gap down to a few seats now. Oxford up to 38.5, less than 200 metres to go, Oxford still a seat or two ahead. Oxford up again to 39.5, Cambridge attacking hard, there will be inches in this, could be the first photofinish in this event. Cambridge coming again, nearly through, yes they are, it's a foot or two to the Light Blues, reversing last year's Dark Blue win, and giving the first victory to their new coaching team. Official time 7:27, verdict three feet, and a thrilling race. That's also the closest verdict ever in this race.
Men's Lightweight Boat Race
Like their reserves, the Cambridge men won the toss for station, and chose the popular one today, the southern lane. The wind's died down quite a lot for them, and conditions are improving for this last race of the day. They're off, Cambridge showing quickly in front rating 40 to Oxford's 39. Within the first minute they're 3/4 length up, and looking to walk away with an early result. Oxford have had a troubled year, losing squad member Leo Blockley when he drowned during an accident on training camp in Amposta, Spain, at New Year. Cambridge register 1:32 through the 500 metres, and Cambridge have opened up a commanding lead, clear water already showing between the two crews. It's a little unusual for this race to break contact so quickly, but Cambridge are capitalising and now have 1.5 lengths lead. Through half way, 3:09 on the clock, and it's two lengths to the Light Blues, who are rating a comfortable 34 and containing the Oxford pushes as the Dark Blues try to get back somewhere near on terms. 750 to go, now another half-length lead to Cambridge, and they can relax and row their best, with plenty in hand. 4:51 to the 500-to-go point, a substantial lead opened up now, and there is little Oxford can do to come back, Cambridge well in control. The wind picking up again a little for the final minute, and Cambridge are right inside their limits, no need even to lift for the line. Official time 6:33, verdict 3.5 lengths.