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Both Oxford crews lose to Cambridge in The Gemini Boat Race 2021

Maurício Alencar reports on Oxford's loss to Cambridge in the biggest Varsity matchup of the year.

OUBC and OUWBC failed to beat Cambridge in The Gemini Boat Race this Easter Sunday, the 166th of its kind for men and the 75th for women. With the race moved from London and done “behind closed doors”, Cambridge were on home territories on the River Great Ouse in Ely. Oxford gave the Tabs strong competition in both races, with the women’s and men’s crew sharing the same fate in only losing by a single boat length. 

Cambridge women’s started on the railway side for better wind protection, which gave them a slight advantage before the race got underway. Once the race had begun, they built an early lead, but Oxford hit back and were level with Cambridge 3 minutes and a half in. They managed to build a strong rhythm and also maintained a safe distance from Cambridge, but the Tabs raised their stroke rate 8 minutes in and pushed away from Oxford towards the finish line. In the later race, the men’s crew for Cambridge also pulled ahead of Oxford early on but had loud calls from the umpire to give space for the Oxford crew. Jesse Oberst, the cox for Oxford at age 38, steered Oxford’s boat with less of the stream over the course of the race, while Cambridge’s crew maintained their pace down the river. 

For the first time in its history, both the women’s and men’s event were umpired by women. The men’s event was umpired by Sarah Winckless MBE, an Olympic bronze medallist, and the women’s by Judith Packer, an umpire with 20 years experience and alumnus of St Peter’s College, Oxford. All crews wore a white ribbon in support of victims of sexual assault, following reports in the national press this week of allegations made by a member of OUWBC.

Last year’s race was unfortunately cancelled due to the outbreak of the pandemic, and 2019 saw the Tabs beat Oxford in both races as well. The last time the crews raced in Ely saw OUBC win by 3 quarters boat length in 1944 after the stroke from Cambridge men’s crew collapsed. The straighter and shorter course at 4.9km in Ely, as opposed to the 6.8km race on the Tideway in London, benefitted the crew with the superior muscle-power and greater know-how on the course and its nuances. 

Oxford’s training has perhaps been hampered by stricter conditions than Cambridge: the University prevented a quick return to training in December after the second lockdown and Oxford’s crews only moved to Ely on the 31st March, whereas Cambridge have been training on home waters for some time longer. The women’s crew were at a particular disadvantage as Julia Lindsay, who rowed at 7 for Oxford, only trained with her crewmates for 4 weeks due to isolation. 

The Oxford men’s crew will hope to win The Boat Race for the 81st time next year, and the women’s crew will look for their 31st win in hopefully more normal conditions. 

Oxford’s crews:

coxJesse OberstPembrokecoxCosti LevyExeter
8- strokeAugustin WambersieSt Catherine’s8- strokeKatherine MaitlandSt Hughs
7Joshua Bowesman-JonesKeble7Julia LindsaySt Cross
6Jean-Philippe DufourLincoln6Georgina GrantHarris Manchester
5Tobias SchröderMagdalen5Martha BirtlesMansfield
4Felix DrinkallLady Margaret Hall4Amelia StandingSt Anne’s
3Martin BaraksoKellogg3Megan StokerSt Peter’s
2Alex BebbSt Peter’s2Anja ZehfussGreen Templeton
1- bowJames ForwardPembroke1- bowKatie AndersonBrasenose

Cambridge’s crews:

coxCharlie MarcusTrinitycoxDylan WhittakerKing’s
8- strokeDrew TaylorClare8- strokeSarah TisdallLucy Cavendish
7Callum SullivanPeterhouse7Bronya SykesGonville & Caius
6Ollie ParishPeterhouse6Sophie PaineGirton
5Garth HoldenSt Edmund’s5Anouschka FenleyLucy Cavendish
4Quinten RichardsonFitzwilliam4Caoimhe DempseyNewnham
3Seb BenzecryJesus3Abba ParkerEmmanuel
2Ben DyerGonville & Caius2Sarah PortsmouthNewnham
1- bowTheo WeinbergerSt John’s1- bowAdriana Perez RotondoNewnham

Artwork by Zoe Rhoades

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