Close Quarters

March 2013, London

I remember this moment vividly. I was tasked with photographing a private fixture between two crews from the University of London and Oxford University Boat Clubs on the Thames in London down the Championship course. It was only a few weeks away from the Boat Race and, as is customary ahead of such an event, the crews involved raced a number of fixtures to prepare for the event and test their race speed against other top crews. Despite being a ‘friendly’ match the racing was furious and right from the start the pace was impressive.

I was in the umpire’s launch at the time, the perfect place to be during such a contest. Soon off the start the crews came together as they fought for the best line on the river, desperately trying to take advantage of the stream before their coxswains were made to steer away under the umpire’s orders. A mental and physical challenge. Witnessing the unfolding drama I waited for the crews to test each other again, with the race umpire bellowing for the crews to move apart once more I knew I wouldn’t have long to capture what I was after. The moment was over almost as soon as it happened. Blades briefly interlocked as they flashed past each other, water thrown up by the opposing blades as they thrashed about in each other’s turbulence, remarkably no contact occurred! The spray and movement made it hard to discern what was happening there and then, and it wasn’t until I reviewed the files back home that I discovered I’d captured the resulting image, a snapshot of the energy and intensity of the moment.

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