After returning home from a successful two-week training camp in Banyoles, Spain, the Leander squads had a packed weekend of racing to look forward to.
The women’s eight had a fixture in London against Oxford University and the rest of the squads were racing at Reading University Head in Eights and Quads.
The high wind forecast for both locations and the predicted conditions could not have been more different from the flat sunny water that we had been so fortunate to enjoy on training camp.
At Reading the course is 4.6 kilometres downstream, this combined with a strong tailwind meant that the race was going to be quick.
The first boat down the track was our Men’s Eight racing in the Open Eights category. The crew comprised from bow to stroke of Charles Waite Roberts, George Rossiter, Cameron Buchan, James Robson, Ed Grisedale, Callum McBrierty, Harry Glenister, James Stanhope coxed by Henry Fieldman.
The crew got off to a good start and showed good discipline to maintain a very fast average speed of 1:20 per 500 meters over the course to achieve a time of 12:24 and to win their event. We are still waiting to hear from RUBC officially if this is a new course record.
With two last minute substitutions the second eight had less than ideal preparation for this event. The crew came home in 4th place. The crew from bow to stroke was Alex Ball, Tom Ballinger, Francisco Mendes, Callum Jonson, Seb Devereux, Richard Hawkins, Barney Stentiford, Ryan Todhunter coxed by Whitney Powell.
The Open Men’s quad going off 23rd overcame the waves and constant steering battles to win their event. The crew comprised from bow to stroke of Victor Kleshnev, James Cartwright, Olly Stephens and Stroke Olly Dix.
Also racing in the Open Men’s quads were our two Star and Arrow junior quads who were using the event as practise ahead of next week’s Schools Head and Scullery.
Last up was the Women’s quad who probably had the worst of the conditions but still managed to race well and win their event in style. The crew from bow to stroke was Katherine Maitland, Charlotte Fennell, Georgy Brayshaw and stroke Ruth Siddorn.
Meanwhile in London on the Tideway our Women’s eight were getting ready to race Oxford. The crew from bow to stroke were Natasha Harris-White, Olivia Caesar, Juliet Perry, Rachel Heap, Annie Withers, Sam Courty, Anna Portious, Susie Dear and cox Morgan Baynham-Williams.
Oxford won the coin toss and chose the preferred Surrey station on the inside of the bend for the prearranged 4.4k race from Putney boat race start to Chiswick steps.
During the warm up the conditions were so windy it was agreed by coaches that if conditions worsened after Hammersmith it might be safer to do two shorter races in the better water, but that decision would happen when crews get to Hammersmith.
Oxford took an early lead with a quick aggressive start but Leander kept their length and managed to draw back level. As the crews approached Hammersmith with Oxford slightly up, a decision was taken to finish the race and return back to Barn Elms for round two.
The second race was much shorter, from Barn Elmes to Harrods approximately 1000 meters.
Leander started the second race much brighter but still trailed the higher rating Oxford crew by a seat or two. Leander again came back at Oxford and did take a small lead but Oxford with the inside of the bend managed to just get back in front to win by the smallest of margins again.
Both crews learnt a lot and we wish Oxford all the best for the Boat Race on Sunday 7th April.