Henley Boat Races 2017 - RaceReport,
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Cambridge University dominated at the Henley Boat Races, winning both varsity ‘Blue’ races and the women’s reserves race, thus retaining the Francombe Cup, as the most successful university on the day, for the third year in a row. Lady Margaret Boat Club (Cambridge) won the Men’s Intercollegiate Race and Cambridge also took the honours in the Men’s Alumni/Reserves Race.

Oxford pride was maintained by an emphatic win in the Women’s Alumnae Race and a victory for Keble College (Oxford) in the Women’s Intercollegiate Race.

White horses had been a consistent feature of the Henley Reach during the week prior to the 43rd Henley Boat Races on 26th March 2017. A strong NE and ENE promised to make conditions on the river challenging, particularly in the early part of the course.

On race day, a wind shift to a direct easterly provided some respite, although the brisk breeze maintained plenty of waves, demanding skill and perseverance from all crews.

 Men’s Lightweight

In the men’s Lightweight Varsity race, both crews made a good start with Cambridge striking 45 to Oxford’s 43. Aggressive coxing by Cambridge cox, Dom Hall, saw them warned by umpire, Dave Hancock, as they pushed to establish an early lead of ½ length.

Raising the rate to 37 and attacking hard as the crew approached Remenham, the dark blues, on the Berks station, led by stroke Douglas Chesterton, were unable to reduce the lead of just over a length established by Cambridge who, with cleaner blade-work, enjoyed the luxury of being able to watch and then respond to the move.

At Fawley, Cambridge, still striking 37 had a 5 ½ second advantage over the lower rating Oxford. This advantage was maintained over the closing stages of the race with Cambridge crossing the line 1 ¾ lengths to the good in a time of 6:07.

Women’s Lightweights

This race has produced some extremely close contests in recent times, but 2017 was Cambridge’s year.

Cambridge were the quicker crew off the start striking 42 to Oxford’s 40, establishing an early ½ length advantage. This higher rate of striking was maintained throughout the race and, by Upper Thames, Cambridge had achieved clear water as the crews passed the massed Oxford supporters. The dark blues were tidy and long in the water, but at 31 to Cambridge’s 34, continued to give ground. At Fawley the crews were 11 secs apart and there was little Oxford, bravely driven on by stroke, Laure Bonfils, could do to challenge Cambridge, who enjoyed the win, verdict 3 ½ lengths, in a time of 6:45.

 Women Lightweight Reserves

The tricky conditions on the start caused problems for the Cambridge pair of Rosie Boxall and Melody Swiers, allowing Oxford to take an early lead of 2 lengths. Warned by the umpire, Cambridge moved back onto station and settled to their race rhythm. By Remenham, Cambridge, again warned for steering had turned the table on the dark blues and now led by 2 lengths.

This advantage was extended to 15 seconds at Fawley and a final verdict of a win, distance ‘easily’ in a time of 8:05, was given by finish judges Mark Briegal and Jonathan Williams.

OULRC 2017

Inter-Collegiate Races

In the women’s race, Keble (Oxford) beat Jesus (Cambridge) by 1 ½ lengths in a closely fought contest. The tricky conditions caused both crews some difficulty, but the cleaner Keble blade-work enabled them to establish a lead by Remenham that was gradually increased as the race progressed. Jesus never gave up the fight, remaining in touch with the winners until the end. The verdict – a win for Keble College by 1 ½ lengths.

In the men’s race, Lady Margaret dominated from the start, inspiring commentator Robert Treharne-Jones to lyricism, referring to their ‘scarlet blades flashing in the clear afternoon light’. Verdict – Lady Margaret Boat Club (Cambridge) beat Oriel College (Oxford) by 3 lengths.

Alumnae/Alumni Races

Both CUWBC and OUWBC fielded strong crews, full of recent blues, in what was only the second alumnae race at the Henley Boat Races. Oxford overturned Cambridge’s victory of last year, achieving an emphatic win by 4 lengths.

The alumni race was very competitive, producing the only blade-clashes of the day and keeping umpire Clare Briegal very busy. Cambridge, the CULRC reserve crew, were due to race at the cancelled Head of the River the day before, so came to the start line fresh for the encounter. Oxford were a mixture of OULRC reserves and alumni. Both crews gave no quarter with Cambridge taking the win by 3 ½ lengths.

Lady Margaret lead Oriel 2017

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