CAMBRIDGE secured a clean sweep of victories in the Lightweight Boat Races over the Regatta course on Sunday,
CAMBRIDGE secured a clean sweep of victories in the Lightweight Boat Races over the Regatta course on Sunday, where the men’s and women’s races produced some of the closest verdicts on record.
The departure of the Women’s Boat Race, so long a feature of the Henley Boat Races, caused many to be concerned about a loss of quality in the racing.
But with the lightweight women taking a three-foot verdict over their traditional foes, and the men following suit with a four-foot victory, there was much to excite the fiercely partisan crowds on the towpath.
There was disappointment, though, for local man Edward Rees, of Russell’s Water, in the seven -seat of the Oxford boat.
Despite his crew taking an early lead they were overhauled approaching Remenham Club and, despite a series of challenges, lost by the narrowest of margins.
In 1974 lightweight men were first recognised at international level in rowing, and it sparked an idea for Richard Bates, then a student at Cambridge University, UK.
Exactly 40 years ago the first Lightweight Men’s Boat Race was staged between Oxford and Cambridge universities, and Bates decided to run his race over a 2000m course at Henley.
The first event was not particularly well attended, in fact no-one really knew it was happening at all said Bates, who attended last weekend’s event from his home in the USA, as guest of honour to present the trophies.
Today the Henley Boat Races attract thousands of spectators, with a partisan crowd including friends and families of the participating athletes, as well as students and alumni of the two universities.
And the verdict was even closer in the women’s race where Cambridge also triumphed, this time by just three feet (0.9m). Neither crew was able to celebrate as they crossed the line until they heard the official verdict from the finish judges.
“I didn’t know who had won, but then the word came through, and I was just so happy,” said Ella Barnard, the Cambridge captain and member of last year’s losing crew race.
“I’m definitely thinking of doing it again next year â?? I feel much more complete now I’ve won.”
Bates added: “I’m very impressed with the way the event has grown in popularity and interest over the last 40 years â?? who knows what the next 40 might bring?”