The Boat Race?

I didn’t get to watch it this morning, since today is our only morning of the week to sleep in.  But there has been plenty to watch and read after the fact given the amount of drama that flooded this morning’s race.
I’m not a diehard Boat Race fan, but I do take interest in it as one of the few events in rowing that gets great media sponsorship and spectator presence.  I also have numerous friends who have rowed in past Boat Races for both the light and dark blues, so it’s difficult to miss their commentary every year and the friendly banter that ensues on Facebook, Twitter, etc.
I think there is a lot of debate about what’s fair and what’s just tragic given the circumstances of this morning–moreover I think opinions on the outcome are largely dependent on one’s university affiliation.  But my short take on the race with no personal Ox/Cam bias is that this was a situation with multiple instances of bizarre or unexpected circumstances, and one crew handled those circumstances better than another.  For anyone who argues that Cambridge should feel less pride about their victory today, or in any way feel disappointed about the outcome, I disagree.  The boat race is touted as an epic and storied contest of power and toughness between two crews, but steering and strategy are huge components of a crew’s success and in this case, Oxford came up short.  Crashing is never ideal in a rowing race, but if it does happen, it takes a lot of focus and resolve not just to come out of it but to also turn it in to an advantage (an early lesson I learned as a novice rower when coxing was often at its most unreliable was that if you were going to hit someone, at least take them out).
As far as I’m concerned, Cambridge capitalized on a bad situation that was not their fault and produced the best possible outcome.  The rules of rowing can be cruel and unforgiving if a crew or cox make steering errors and it doesn’t get much more real than a broken oar as a product of said errors.  Ouch.
Overall, a very tough contest today for both crews.  Sorry that it wasn’t perfect, but part of preparing for competition is being prepared for the unexpected.  Well done Cambridge (esp. Niles Garratt, Cambridge stroke and UW Class of ’11!!!!).

This is today’s Twitter feed from William Zeng, Oxford 2-seat–very emotional and worth a read (note: have to read bottom to top):

Well, enough of this.  I have my own racing to prepare for (hopefully no swimmers/protesters and/or clashes involved) as Non Qualified Olympic Trials begin here in Chula Vista next Tuesday.  More to come on that, but first: laundry and taxes.  Oh, the glamorous life of an Olympic hopeful.

Long Live the Dream,

–MK

PS: as of this afternoon, all reports indicate that the Oxford bowman who was escorted to the hospital after the race is doing well and is on the road to recovery.  Can’t say that I’ve ever blacked out from rowing before, so tip of the hat to you, sir.

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6 responses to “The Boat Race?

  1. I disagree with you — not completely — but all the same, I think yesterday’s Boat Race was a complete farce.

    I do think Cambridge should feel less pride in their win. And it has nothing to do with the shameful (and it was shameful) way they celebrated after crossing the line. I think they might almost feel cheated themselves — cheated out of really testing their mettle. Yes, Cambridge will add another win to their column. And I think that’s as it should be.

    However, I would like it if the two crews, on some day where there were no crowds, no cameras, no flotillas of launches, could settle this. No it wouldn’t be official. The result doesn’t even need to be made public. But for the sake of the crews, and yes I suppose this is me favoring Oxford, but for the sake of clarity and honor, an opportunity to truly know who the best crew was is necessary.

    I mean no disrespect with this comment. This is the first time I’ve ever disagreed or rubbed the wrong way by one of your posts.

    Also, much respect to Niles Garratt for not carrying on as did his teammates. He showed respect to his opponents and to the race as an institution.

    • Of course, no disrespect taken. I’m glad you posted this comment.

      My primary impetus for writing this in the first place was seeing a comment online that was along these same lines–that Cambridge should be disappointed because they “cheated out of really testing their mettle.” I’m not really sure what people mean by this, however. You only want to see two eights row for 19 minutes as hard as they can and have the margin be much closer?
      If that’s the case, then there should probably be an ergometer event added to the Boat Race, because something like head racing in eights is MUCH more complex and tests “mettle” in more ways than just mindlessly yanking on an oar.
      And I disagree that “an opportunity to truly know who the best crew was is necessary” as Oxford proved yesterday that they were the weaker crew because their #9 made a critical error that led to a crash. If you don’t want to count the actions of the cox as part of the assessment of the “best crew” in the race, then again–probably should move to the ergometers.

      I completely respect your ideals on honor and commitment to tradition; they are things that I preach constantly (much more frequently than I actually write about them, much to the annoyance of my teammates), but in this instance, swimmer excluded, I think both crews earned their finish positions.

      Thanks again for your comment, write any time.

      –MK

  2. I have to agree with the previous comment: i feel that cambridge could be construed as tarnishing their ‘honour’, for not only celebrating such a victory in the light of Alex’s collapse but also by continuing the row against seven men. It seems similar to Tyson Gay cutting off one of Bolt’s legs mid-race, and then jumping for joy and screaming in his face afterwards. Truly a bizzare race.

    • I don’t think the comparison you’re making is accurate.
      The crash was Oxford’s fault. They took an improper course and as a result, sustained damage to their equipment which prevented them from completing the race with all 8 rowers. The crash was preventable, but they continued to steer aggressively through warnings from the umpire.
      Cambridge committed no fault and were not in any way obligated to stop racing.

      My personal opinions on celebrating after racing are fairly conservative, and I don’t think it’s ever appropriate to stand up and remove oars, etc. but those decisions are entirely subject to the winning crews themselves, and I don’t think winning a race in part due to an opponent’s poor judgment should preclude celebration or pride in a victory–within reason.

      –MK

  3. Great article. I understand that Oxford will feel hard done by, it’s heart breaking to end months of training with that result, but in no way should Cambridge have been expected to stop and let them have a restart – the clash was Oxford’s fault! Wrt the comments on celebrating their win, I don’t think they realised the state that Alex was in (it took Oxford at least 5 minutes to notice!) and they were clearly concerned once they knew. I agree it’s not really appropriate to celebrate by standing up with oars and such like, but I think that was more of a response to how Oxford behaved last year – their 2 man took his blade out then clambered up the boat to high five their cox. Cambridge were pretty muted in comparison.

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