Thursday, March 24, 2016

The 2016 Cancer Research UK Boat Races: Who Will Row to Victory on the Tideway?

Which Blue is your pick to win the Boat Races this year?


This year's grudge match on the Thames marks another historical move forward for the event, as it's the first time that both the men's and women's races have had the same name: The CRUK Boat Races. And, it just wouldn't be us if we didn't shoot our mouths off about what we think is going to happen. Here's our take on who'll be tops on the Tideway this weekend.

The Men's Race
This year, the men's race looks like the clear advantage will go to Cambridge. They're experienced, determined, and have performed very well through the fixtures to make themselves the favorites entering competition.


For a detailed, seat-by-seat comparison of the crews, check out Daniel Spring's blog on the subject—like Dan, we're backing the Light Blues to take the Boat Races glory this year, though it will be no small task. If we've learned anything about Sean Bowden, it's that he can be even more dangerous when his crews enter the race as underdogs.


Also, the psychology for the Light Blues is complicated—there are several experienced Blues in their crew, but they've not yet experienced the joys of winning the race. Navigating that plus the pressure to perform as the popular favorite to win the event could be tricky, but if there's anyone who knows about performing under pressure, it's Olympic gold medalist Steve Trapmore.



Something to take away from the video above—though this piece was a decisive victory for Leander, it wasn't a romp. Oxford holds on—a trait that should serve the crew very well over the weekend.

Prediction: Cambridge by two lengths.

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The Women's Race
While the voting on the women's side in our Twitter poll was more one-sided than that of the men, this is one of the hardest races to call in some time, in our opinion. While both crews beat Molesey crews in Tideway fixtures during the buildup to the main event, Oxford have become the popular favorites after Cambridge lost to a Molesey crew by eight seconds at the Women's Eights Head of the River at the beginning of the month.

While that could certainly be a bad sign in terms of CUWBC's performance over the long course, it also came at a time when they were likely still in the midst of a hard training cycle heading into a taper before the Boat Races, which would predict a slower-than-usual performance. Also, the Cambridge lineup is very strong this year, with two former NCAA athletes from big-name programs (Daphne Martschenko, Stanford; Ashton Brown, Princeton), as well as French international Myriam Goudet, who may be the most experienced rower in the event this year.

Still, Oxford have a similar pedigree, experience coming back to the Blue boat this year including last year's president, Anastasia Chitty, and what looks like an edge based on the recent results from the WEHORR. Also, coxswain Morgan Baynham-Williams is among the best in the UK, and will know the Tideway well—though CUWBC cox Rosemary Ostfeld will have the recent experience of the WEHORR to learn from and make her adjustments. So, you see our dilemma.

Given the evidence, our pick has to hinge on the Molesey comparison: While both crews raced Molesey and won in Tideway fixtures, CUWBC's fixture was shortened to one piece—circumstances that tend to favor the Boat Races crew. Oxford passed the test in tough conditions over three pieces during their fixture with MBC. In our minds, this might give OUWBC a slight edge, but we still feel it will be a close race.

Prediction: Oxford by one length.

Not long now until we get to find out for real! You can keep up with all things Boat Races via their official website, and keep an eye on our Twitter feed for more developments as Tideway Week comes to a close and the stage is set for the renewal of the oldest rivalry in our sport. It doesn't get much better than this!

For full results from the men's and women's lightweight events, please visit the official website of the Henley Boat Races.

-RR

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