Goldie Triumph ‘Bodes Well’

Cambridge’s coaches tell The Tab what the prospects are for 2011…and why the Winkelvoss twins weren’t rowing in Light Blue this year.

blues rowing boat race cubasch eduoard blanc goldie legett nilsson

Listening to the breathless interviews on Mortlake embankment last Saturday you could be forgiven for thinking that the Boat Race is a one-off event that will never happen again.

Some variation on “winning on the day is the only thing that matters” is the staple of the competitors’ pre- and post-race comments; it’s a tussle in which next week really doesn’t matter, far less next year.

And yet for the men who masterminded Light Blue success last weekend, next year is already on the mind.

Coach Chris Nilsson was understandably delighted with victory in his first full season with the Blue Boat but it was the news that he relayed to his men on the stake-boat at the start that has turned his thoughts firmly to 2011.

As Nilsson’s men sat on the calm Putney water, amid the hushed excitement and the jangling nerves, they were delivered, via a phone call to the Amaryllis coaching launch, the welcome news that just minutes before, their friends in Goldie had upset the odds to beat Isis in the reserves race.

“It gave them enormous confidence” CUBC old-timer and legendary coach Donald Leggett told me. Blue Boat second seat Geoff Roth told friends that knowing Goldie had managed to go from being behind on the Hammersmith station kept him believing that they could do the same. Nilsson said the news was “the perfect inspiration” for his crew.

30 minutes earlier however, it hadn’t looked like the Goldie race story would be used as a motivational tale. By St. Paul’s school Isis had a commanding length-and-a-half lead and, as any Boat Race observer will tell you, crews rarely come back after conceding clear water.

But come back Goldie did. By Barnes bridge the cost of the Dark Blues’ start had seen a dramatic reversal of fortunes as cox Liz Box’s calls were answered by her crew with an heroic push before Chiswick Eyot delivered in the “Goldie rhythm” of which she speaks so fondly.


Photos: Copyright Hannah Copley.

Their two-length victory was met with surprise among the media veterans sharpening ther pencils at Mortlake, and a week after the big day Nilsson, Legett and Goldie’s coach Edouard Blanc were agreed that Goldie’s triumph bodes well.

“Goldie has always had a great tradition.” Legett told me, “it remains a breeding ground for potential Blues; Fred Gill and George Nash having stepped up a notch this year.  It bodes well that Code Sternal and Hardy are hoping to return next year with Blues Roth, Nash and Rasmussen.”

Also in the frame must be Moritz Schramm and Matt Whaley not to mention freshmen Mike Thorp from Homerton and St. Johns’ George Lamb who was reportedly close to being given the Goldie stroke-seat and who will both hope to finish their time at the University with a Blue.

Nilsson, the brooding eye-patched New Zealander who joined CUBC as head coach last last season, says Goldie’s result was “timely” for the club.

Head Coach Chris Nilsson congratulates Goldie cox Liz Box at Mortlake.

In all as many as nine of the sixteen who rowed in Light Blue this year may do so again in 2011, which compares favourably with Oxford – seven of whose Blue Boat were on one year courses and only one of whom, Ben Myers, is expected to row next year.

Rumours abound that the the Winkelvoss brothers, who so obsessed the national media this year, are planning a second bite of the cherry for the Dark Blues. That might bring a smile to Donald Legett’s mouth.

He mocks the “mindless junk about their Facebook millions” in the BBC’s much criticised race build-up and told me that “they had a grade so low from Harvard that Cambridge would not accept them!  They even announced they are at Christ Church College – they don’t seem to know it is called Christ Church”.

For the strapping Swiss thirty-something Blanc, whose arrival from the Durham women’s club to coach Goldie was greeted with raised eye-brows last year, the experience was a baptism of fire:

“Cambridge is probably one of the only clubs in the world were a world champion (Cubash) would row in the same crew as a guy that just came out of school (Lamb) – and that’s part of the magic” he told The Tab.

The Goldie boys watch thier Blue Boat team-mates take on Oxford

Everyone I speak to has praise for Cubasch, whose shot at the Blue Boat was ended by injury at a crucial stage of the season but who notably stuck by an unfancied Goldie crew.

“It was truly amazing how quickly Hardy bounced back and the positive attitude he brought to the Goldie boat after such a big disappointment” Box told me. Nilsson adds that they were “very fortunate to have his experience and leadership”.

That might not be the last we hear of Cubasch’s leadership if, as some are predicting, he takes the reins as CUBC President in his final year but be that as it may, it’s amazing what difference one adrenaline-fuelled hour on the tideway can make to the feel of a club.

As Cambridge pulled to victory in the 2007 Boat Race, ITV commentator Peter Drury remarked that “there have been some dark days for the Light Blues just recently but the clouds are clearing now”.

Saturday’s events have encouraged Nilsson and his team to hope that the clouds may clear for a little longer this time around.