Hardy’s Boat Race Diary: Week 6

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HARDY CUBASCH shares his thoughts on this week's announcement of the Boat-Race line-up.

This week saw the official announcement of both the Cambridge and Oxford crews for next month’s Boat Race – the 156th since our first clash back in 1829.

It is the culmination of six months of gruelling training for both shades of blue and it is at this point that both Presidents and coaching teams need to make a judgement call. Over hundreds of hours of training, racing and testing, they have witnessed every single squad member being pushed to their limits and attaining levels that at the beginning of the campaign may have appeared unreachable.

The two crews go head to head.

Now the pressures of selection must be put to rest and a crew named that can spend the next four weeks coming together as one. Although the bonds within the larger squad are already strong, those between the guys who have made the final cut need to be strengthened, so that on Boat Race day there is a powerful belief within the crew.

As shattering as it is for me not to be able to join the guys on April 3rd, they have been the top performers and most consistent rowers throughout this campaign. Of course, having spent so long on the sidelines you always question what might have been. If only you could have returned sooner, or maybe just had an extra week or two to get back to full fitness. Sure you have past successes to prove what you are capable of but the most important aspect of winning the Boat Race is the team. And to create a winning team takes time. So it is vital the crew was named when it was.

The crews prepare for the official weigh-in. Cambridge pip Oxford by 500g per man.

This is actually something that the four returning Blues stressed to one another at the beginning of the season. Last year, due to injury and illness, it was decided to delay the final naming of our crew until everyone was back to full strength. Although we ended up racing with our best eight guys on the day, the actual Boat Race was our first in that combination. Sure we had trained together and simulated race conditions before but none of that comes close to replicating the actual event.

Close to the halfway mark, when the pain was really starting to set it, we found ourselves midway through the Hammersmith Bridge bend, leading by over half a length on the inside and still moving away on one of Oxford’s greatest ever crews, packed with Olympians and International Rowers alike. We knew that we had to put the pressure on them right from the start and continue squeezing the vice until they cracked.

At this critical moment, when the impossible seemed like it may just happen, a call was made to our crew. In the following seconds, there was a slight misunderstanding among us. This opened the door for Oxford; they pounced on the opportunity and the race was virtually over within a couple of minutes.

The 2009 Boat Race – what might have been…

It was perhaps the perfect example of why it is imperative in rowing, unlike some other sports, to select a final line-up well before the main event. You have to put yourself in these situations as many times as possible in training and lead-up races to ensure that every crew member knows how to react in any given situation.

The eight guys that have been named in the Cambridge Blue Boat have shown that as individuals they are currently the best racers our University has to offer. It is now critical they take this courage and skill and become one single force.

For many, rowing appears from the outside as one of the simplest forms of sport. The basics certainly are. However, to achieve success at the highest level requires each individual to perfectly blend in with those around him. Their body movements, arc length, application of force, timing and rhythm all need to be as one. It’s like trying to match eight golf swings or athletic hurdle strides in perfect unison.

The real test however, comes when nerves, pain and an equally skillful opponent are added to the mix. For it is here that a crews true courage and character shine through. This is why creating an unbreakable bond and understanding between one another is absolutely crucial to winning The Boat Race on April 3rd.

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