In an exciting display of international rowing talent, the Dutch National Development Team descended upon the River Thames in London on the 28th January 2024 to face off against the formidable Cambridge University Boat Clubs Men’s and Women’s Eights over the iconic Championship Course.

The Dutch Development coaching team is led by Diederik de Boorder who is the Dutch national coach for talent development, he is supported by three volunteers, Thijs van Luijk, Jolijn Remmelink and Peter Wiersum who have all been coaching on the Under 23 circuit for the past few years. The development team consists of a diverse mix of student rowers, all of whom are studying at various levels whilst undertaking a rigorous training regime meticulously crafted by a dedicated team of physiologists and trainers. Their collective goal? To emerge as the powerhouse contenders ahead of the 2028 Olympic Games.

The decision to cross the North Sea and engage in a series of challenging races on the Tideway is rooted in the team’s commitment to their developmental pathway. The Tideway, renowned for its intricate currents and challenging course, presents an ideal testing ground for the young Dutch athletes. Facing off against the top crews from Cambridge University provides them with the tough competition necessary for their growth as athletes.

“We come to London to give our athletes the opportunity to learn and adapt. The Tideway offers a difficult course, and the crews from Cambridge offer tough competition,” explains Coach Peter Weirsum. “This experience is crucial for their development. It’s a part of their journey towards becoming elite rowers and, ultimately, Olympic athletes.”

The Men’s Race

First Piece Drama: Clash and Restart

As the first piece commenced, the Dutch and Cambridge crews remained neck-and-neck until Cambridge gradually pulled ahead. Despite the Dutch team’s resilience and a strategic advantage rowing on the Middlesex station, the crews clashed repeatedly, with Cambridge managing to gain a two-seat lead. The intense competition led to a crab in the Dutch boat, prompting the umpire, Matthew Pinsent, to halt the piece for a restart.

The crews re-started at Harrods Depository. Cambridge surged ahead, establishing a half-length lead almost immediately. Under Hammersmith Bridge, Cambridge extended their lead to ¾ of a length, ultimately securing victory in the first piece by a commanding three lengths.

Second Piece: Dutch Seeks Revenge

Undeterred by their earlier setback, the Dutch National Development Team entered the second piece with a thirst for revenge. They jumped Cambridge off the start, but the Cambridge crew, found their rhythm and steadily closed the gap. As the crews approached Barnes Bridge, clashes ensued, with both coxes receiving warnings. Despite the Dutch team’s initial lead, Cambridge managed to ride out the clashes, securing a ⅓ length lead and ultimately winning the second piece by two and a half lengths.

In the wake of these compelling races, the Dutch National Development Team returns to Amsterdam with valuable insights and experiences gained from facing one of the world’s most challenging riverways and competing against the top Cambridge crews. As they continue their journey towards the 2028 Olympics, these young athletes are undoubtedly one step closer to realizing their ambitions on the international rowing stage. Stijn Wieling says of the weekends racing,

“In advance we were talking about how much we wanted to have a tight race and have our oars clashing cambridge’s. Well we got the clashes we asked for, but after that, the race was not as tight as we had hoped. However we think we learned a great deal from racing Cambridge on the tideway and want to thank them for having us!”

The Women’s Race

In a display of fierce competition and unwavering determination, Cambridge University Boat Club’s Women’s A Crew clashed with the formidable Dutch National Development Team on the challenging waters of the Tideway. The showdown, spanning multiple pieces, showcased the resilience and skill of both crews as they vied for supremacy.

First Piece: Neck-and-Neck Battle

As the first piece commenced, Cambridge’s Women’s A Crew drew Middlesex and found themselves locked in a tense battle with the Dutch. Despite the Dutch team drawing out to nearly a one-length lead, Cambridge refused to be daunted. Displaying remarkable composure, Cambridge improved their pace through the Fulham bend, narrowing the margin to inside one length. The surge continued as the crews navigated the Crabtree Reach, with Cambridge gaining seats. However, in a tightly contested finish, the Dutch emerged victorious by a mere few feet.

Second Piece: Dutch Dominance Continues

With Cambridge positioned on the inside of the Surrey Bend for the second piece, they faced a disadvantage. Capitalising on this opportunity, the Dutch launched another fast start, propelling themselves to a clear-water lead past Hammersmith Bridge. Despite rowing in the Dutch’s ‘wash’, Cambridge regrouped and mounted a fierce comeback, narrowing the margin to one length at the finish at Chiswick Steps. Their display of mid-race pace in the challenging January conditions highlighted their tenacity and determination.

Final Piece: Cambridge’s Last Stand

In the final piece from Chiswick Steps to the Finish, Cambridge sought to overturn the Dutch’s dominance. Despite being positioned on the outside of Barnes Bend, the Dutch once again surged ahead, establishing a clear-water lead. Cambridge responded closing the gap and bringing their bow ball level with the Dutch’s stern. However, despite their efforts, they were unable to surpass their opponents, highlighting the Dutch team’s formidable control over the course.

In the aftermath of these gripping encounters, both Cambridge University Boat Club’s Women’s A Crew and the Dutch National Development Team depart with invaluable experiences and lessons learned. Reflecting on the day of racing Lisa Bruininx on the Dutch team says,

“Racing against Cambridge on the Boat Race course was an incredible experience for us. The Fixture races were exciting and overall a valuable learning experience. Big thanks to Cambridge for the hospitality and the amazing, challenging races. We’re rooting for you at the Boat Race!”

In response, Siobhan Cassidy, Chair of BRCL said this:

“While we’ve always known the high value of these fixtures for the Oxford and Cambridge crews as they prepare to face one another on the 30th March, it’s fantastic to know that the clubs and national teams that we host also see it as a valuable part of their talent development programme and they’re always welcome to come back and visit us on this unique stretch of water.”

Dutch Men’s Eight

Olle Van Bohemen
Club E.S.R. Theta Eindhoven
Noted Rowing Results – U23 Men’s Coxless Four 2022 and U23 Men’s Eight 2023

Mats van Sabben
Club A.A.S.R. Skoll,
Noted Rowing Results – Gold Medallist World University Games 2021

Sten Postma
Club – A.A.S.R. Skoll,
Noted Rowing Results – Henley Royal Regatta semi-finalist in the Prince of Wales 2023

Lucas Keijzer
Club – A.S.R. Nereus
Noted Rowing Results – Silver Medallist U23 Quad Scull

Stijn Wieling
Club – A.A.S.R. Skoll,
Noted Rowing Results – U23 Double Scull competitor, attended first World Cup in 2023, National Silver Medallist in Single Scull.

Nicolaas Dirkzwager
Club – A.A.S.R. Skoll,
Noted Rowing Results – U23 Silver Medallist 2023 Men’s Eight

Michiel Mantel
Club – A.S.R. Nereus ,
Noted Rowing Results U23 Silver Medallist 2022 Men’s Eight

Jorn Salverda
Club – A.A.S.R. Skoll
Noted Rowing Results – attended World Cup II and reached semi-final Prince of Wales

Sara Kalf
Club – A.S.R. Nereus
Noted Rowing Results former lightweight rower turned cox after being hit by a car whilst cycling. Sara has found a silver lining to a terrible situation.

Dutch Women’s Eight

Margot Leeuwenburgh
Club – K.S.R.V Njord
Noted Rowing Results – Women’s Henley win in Coxless 4. 2020 European Championships Bronze Siingle Scull , participated in World Cup II Varese.

Claire De kok – U23
Club – K.S.R.V Njord
Noted Rowing Results – U23 Double Scull 2022, U23 Bronze Medallist 2023 Quad Scull
This year is my goal to follow my feeling and have fun in the sport!

Lisa Bruijnincx
Club – K.S.R.V Njord
Noted Rowing Results – 2019 – World Championships U19 Gold Medallist Double Sculls, 2021 U23 Double Sculls Gold Medallist, 2022 – U23 Quad ScullGold Medallist

Lisanne van der Lelij
Club – A.U.S.R. Orca
Noted Rowing Results – 2023 4x National Champion, FISU World University Games Silver Medallist Women’s Eight

Maartje Damen
Club – D.S.R.V. Laga
Noted Rowing Results 2019 U23 Gold Medallist, European Bronze medallist. World Coastal Championships Sculler,

Noortje Wilms
Club – D.S.R.V. Laga
Noted Rowing Results 2022 U23 Women’s Eight 2023 U23s Women’s Pair Silver Medallist

Vera Sneijders
Club – E.S.R. Thêta
Noted Rowing Results 2022 U23 Women’s Quad Scull, Gold Medallist, 2023 U23 Women’s Quad Scull Bronze Medallist

Linn van Aanholt
Club – Skadi
Noted Rowing Results – 2022 U23 Women’s Eight Fourth, 2023 U23 Women’s Pair Silver Medallist 2

Aniek van Veenen
Club – A.U.S.R. Orca
Noted Rowing Results European Rowing Championships Munich 2022 (bronze), 2022 FISU World University Games Men’s Eight, 2022 World Cup 1 Women’s Eight Gold Medallist, 2022 World Rowing Championships Racice Silver Medallist. 2023 FISU Men’s Eight Gold Medallist.