Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Boat Race

I usually manage to watch the annual Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge Universities. This year I particularly enjoyed watching the scenes around Putney Bridge, since I was there earlier this year.

I like both Oxford and Cambridge as places, so I don't really have a favourite team to support - but this year I decided to support Cambridge for several reasons.

Firstly, I had a really enjoyable trip there last summer with Silverback to see a new applicant to the agency in a play (and the applicant joined, and he's been great).

Secondly, the Cambridge cox was female, Rebecca Dowbiggin, (yes, yes, I know, the race is over but she still hasn't managed to park the boat, stop it now) and I preferred Cambridge's "Come on, row faster" approach to Oxford's "We need to visualise ourselves jumping on top of the opposition's faces" technique.

Thirdly - and crucially - there were actually some blokes from Britain to be found in the Cambridge boat. The Oxford crew are all about six feet six, and mostly from abroad. In 1980, the actor Hugh Laurie rowed for Cambridge and I cling nostalgically to the idea of the race being between Proper British Chaps like him - and yes, I know he's starring in an American series, House, but he's British, okay?

The Oxford team was much bigger and stronger and much was made in the pre-race waffle of the fact that they'd had a lot of psychological coaching along the lines of visualising themselves winning and all that sort of thing.

Apparently the effort required in this race is equivalent to running up the stairs to the top of a one hundred and fifty storey building. It makes me tired just to think about it.

If you want to see the race repeated on televsion, and you don't know who won yet, then stop reading right here - - because I'm going to tell you now.

Cambridge started off well, and then petered out a bit halfway through, and Oxford got ahead and did their best to make sure Cambridge couldn't overtake by getting right in front of the Cambridge boat, and Oxford won.

Which was what was expected.

For some reason, since the Boat Race is always trailed as one of those frightfully-British occasions, with a quarter of a million people turning up to watch it, I rather wish that it still could be. I wish that the crews could have to be - - well - - British. I can see why they're not - - I can see that if your application to Oxford University says "I'm Australian, and I'm six feet nine, and I'm really very good at rowing" - - well, they might look more favourably upon your application.

But the Boat Race itself is such an old-fashioned anachronism, I wish really that they'd keep it even more that way.


Blogger Silverback said...

I still like the idea we discussed of you being a cox next year even though I felt your large black handbag and habit of wanting to stop at every opportunity to take photos might just affect the outcome of the race.

Somehow I don't think you'll be getting the call from either team which is a sad reflection on the standard British ideal of "it's not the winning but the taking part that matters"

You and your handbag would show a sceptical watching world that the ideal is alive and well in 21st century Britain.

8:43 pm  
Blogger Daphne said...

Yes, actually this cox idea is growing on me and I'll be ready when they call. I'd be more interested in getting some good photos of the river, as you say, so your suggestion that I might be shouting "Can you back up a bit lads?" is quite likely. It'd be more fun with me as cox, and less tiring for the crew as well. And we'd lose with dignity and everyone would feel proud to be British.

8:53 pm  

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