Cambridge-Oxford Potomac Challenge Cup 2014

As the Cambridge Master's IV nestled into the boat dock on the bank of Potomac, the hunched shoulders and sullen looks summed up the day for the Cambridge crews at the annual Cambridge-Oxford Potomac Challenge Cup 2014.  The afternoon had started well, with the Cambridge rowers excitedly preparing for their races amid a late Summer heat wave. For some, this was to be their first race, having started their novice rowing careers only a few months earlier. For others, a few gray hairs were testament to past races, including victories by both the Women's and the Master's IVs in 2013.

The Men's VIII pushed off from the dock at about 1.30 pm, with Simone Maini (St. John’s) leading the crew through their usual warm up and a pleasingly solid practice race start. The Oxford crew, with Captain Nick in the 6 seat, was waiting on the start line for the Light Blues and proposed moving the start closer to the Key Bridge. Looking for a shorter race, they were clearly a crew ready for a short sprint. For Cambridge, rowing their racing crew together for the first time, this didn't bode well. Oxford led off the start, bringing their boat up to speed much more quickly than Cambridge. Dominic White (Magdalene) and Chris Greenroyd (St. John’s) in the Cambridge stern held the Cambridge stroke rate up at 34 in an effort to gain back some ground, whilst the boat’s “engine room” of Michael Freidberg (Pembroke), Bill Kynes (St. John’s), Blair Lapres (Darwin) and Laura Blecha (St. Edmunds), committed to a strong push off Key Bridge. Over the course of the race, the Cambridge bow pair of Kedar Narayan (Christ’s) and David Wilson (Caius), inched closer to the Oxford crew as the boat settled into a resilient stride to the finish. Ultimately, it was not enough and Oxford held onto their early gains, eventually crossing the finish line at the downstream end of Georgetown waterfront three lengths clear. Maybe next year, we should propose a longer course...

Meanwhile, the Cambridge Women's Novice IV and the Oxford Women's B IV had taken to the water and were making their way to the start. With Blair Lapres jumping out of the Men’s VIII and into the stroke seat of the Cambridge Men's Novice IV, and after a few last minute boat repairs, their crew followed close behind, to make it a three boat race. Oxford were again the quicker off the start; perhaps unsurprising given the novices’ lack of racing experience. However, once they had established their rhythm, both Cambridge crews held good speed and timing down the course, putting into practice what they had learnt so far this season. These solid performances bode well for being able to build off this foundation for next year.

The Women's IV rowers, with Gretchen (Kedar Narayan) at bow and Laura Blecha setting the pace in the stroke seat, were a good match for their Oxford counterparts off the start, maintaining overlap well into the race. Asha Puttaiah (Trinity Hall) urged the crew onward with a big push, but unfortunately, the crew’s lack of race practice showed and our ladies couldn't hold their speed over the course. Then, with Ariane Rosen (Clare Hall) and Mae Wu (Queens’) looking on in disbelief from the middle of the boat, the Light Blue shell was bumped, Cambridge-style, by its own coaching launch. This eventually allowed Oxford to secure a comfortable win.

The Master's crews were last to race that steaming hot afternoon. Three members of the Men’s VIII (Simone Maini, Bill Kynes, and David Wilson) being joined by the fresh legs of Jeff Pryce (Peterhouse) and Richard Rutherford (Corpus Christi) in the boat. Both crews were forced to navigate a flotilla of kayaks, SUPs and pirate ships, though Oxford maintained their dominance off the start, finally crossing the line about three lengths clear. A repeat of the Men’s VIII race, it would seem. It was a valiant effort by the Cambridge Master’s, who left everything out on the river that day.

Both clubs retired to the Ritz Hotel after the races for the presentation of the Potomac Cup and some well earned drinks. Despite some disappointing results, the mood was upbeat as the crews reflected on a successful summer of rowing. Since the beginning of June, Cambridge rowers had been meeting at Thompson’s Boat House on Saturday mornings, consistently putting out an VIII and a IV every weekend. Experienced and novice rowers alike enjoyed warm mornings on the water, taking in the view of the monuments from an otherwise still Potomac. Outings were often followed by a group brunch, allowing friendships to be forged and team spirit to be built. This culminated in a crew pasta the night before the race, something most rowers hadn’t taken part in since the heady days of Cambridge youth, when pasta for 9 was cooked over one hob using a Sainsburys packet sauce. It was clear how far the crewmates had come that season, and thoughts were already starting to turn to next year...

To close out the 2014 season, it only remains for me to thank our coaches Christina and Duwyane for their patient and much needed professional guidance; Thompson’s Boat House for the use of their equipment; my co-captains Bill Kynes and David Wilson for their help throughout the season; and last but not least, our loyal supporters who cheered us on from the riverside.


Chris Greenroyd

Cambridge Alumni Boat Club Captain, September 29th 2014


Boat Club Links 

2014 Boat Race Photos

Boat Race Videos

2014 Potomac Challenge Cup Event Program

About The 2014 Cambridge Crews  

Photos from 2014 Boat Club Practice 

Cantab DC Boat Club 

Cambridge-Oxford Boat Race