On a rainy Sunday afternoon in London two teams of oarsmen, one from Oxford and one from Cambridge, came together to race from Putney to Mortlake in the 160th edition of the annual Boat Race. The culmination of months of training and singleminded dedication to one event in which there can only be one winner.
Two races take place on the day, the reserves race of Isis (Oxford) and Goldie (Cambridge) and then The Boat Race itself. Being unable to follow the race on a launch this year, having been on one for most of the practice sessions in the build up to the event, was unfortunate but by a quirk of fate this may not have been a bad thing – and not because of the inclement weather. As has been widely reported by now, roughly 5 minutes into the race and Cambridge’s two man lost his oar after being clipped by an opposite number in the Oxford boat effectively ending their chance for victory. With Oxford taking a commanding lead hopes of dramatic side-by-side photos would surely have been dashed (grumbles from the press launch as it arrived at the finish landing stage only confirmed this), along with reports of furious lens-wiping thanks to rain and spray. With a race time of 5.55pm (BST) low light levels were to be expected, running in a generally westerly direction it could have been stunning shooting into the light but the darkened and stormy skies meant reduced shutter speeds to allow for more light, I suspect being on a launch bouncing around on the water would not have helped the situation…
In the end I waited patiently (and steadily!) by the finish line, I had no knowledge of how either race would progress until they came around the corner from Barnes Bridge but I was ideally placed to catch the reactions of crews as they crossed the line. As it turned out the reserve race of Isis and Goldie proved much more animated and expressive of the torturous 20-odd minutes of racing they have just endured compared to their counterparts who followed in The Boat Race.
It’s been an interesting few months being part of the process from the other side (i.e. not at home on a Sunday afternoon screaming at the telly) and watching the crews progress and develop as they approach race day. I have often photographed rowing, quietly and with just myself and a launch driver to go where we please and achieve what I’m after. Being shoulder to shoulder with a dozen others, surrounded by the constant clicks as shutters hop up and down, dodging extraordinarily large lenses getting in the way and with little control over where I could go it certainly felt slightly strange. Not to mention how it must have felt for the rowers as the circus followed them around…!
Oxford were tipped as strong favourites this year with a crew containing many talented athletes – three Olympic medalists to start with! – people will always try to second guess the result or place their bets one way or the other but as the accident in the Cambridge boat showed, and clash costing Oxford their chance two years ago (after encountering a swimmer on the course!) …anything can happen. Next year the Women’s Boat Race comes to London for the first time ever, an event that will be watched with great interest. See you there in 2015!
Scroll through the images below for more:
<< Back to News Home