In Oxford’s only win of the day, the women’s reserve crew kicked off proceedings with a display of top quality racing in the Osiris versus Blondie race. Osiris stormed to victory with an impressive lead of 5 lengths. Oxford won the coin toss and chose Middlesex. This race was set to be a historic moment for the clubs: with Oxford now racing as one single club and all four squads together under the same banner of OUBC. Cambridge were the reigning champions, having taken the win the previous 7 years, with the first Tideway appearance for the reserves crews not until 2015 in which Oxford won by a record-breaking margin of 15 lengths.

This was the 49th women’s reserve’s boat race, and Oxford had the opportunity to turn the predominantly light blue tide .

The crews started level, both coping professionally with the long wait on the stakeboats and the roar of the crowds behind them, Cambridge with only the cox, James Trotman, as returning Blue; and Oxford with experienced Aussie, Freya Willis, and cox Tara Slade both taking on the challenge for a second time.

Osiris approaching Barnes Bridge with a comfortable lead over Blondie

The crews were level along the Putney embankment, with no clear favourite emerging, but by the first marker point, the mile post, Oxford were already more than 10 seconds ahead. The performance of the Oxford crew really demonstrating the strength and depth of the women’s squad under Allen French. A promising start for a coach taking over at a time when Cambridge victories dominate Boat Races year on year.

By Barnes Bridge, the Oxford crew had extended their lead to a comfortable 5 lengths, leaving the Cambridge crew over 15 seconds behind in their wash. Having led for most of the race, Oxford stormed ahead as Cambridge, in a seemingly radical move from the cox, tucked themselves into the inshore zone coming round the final bend. It paid off, but was too little too late.

They gained a few strokes on Oxford but did little to close the gap / narrow the margin.

A jubilant Tara Slade at Mortlake.

It’ll be all to play for next year, as Oxford’s Head Women’s Coach, Allan French, starts to consolidate the remarkable progress he’s made in turning the women’s squad around in their first year as part of one single boat club. – another year of serious training lies ahead. In his words, the OUBC squad must ‘develop into an unbreakable unit who are tough, resilient, and better off together’. This race stands out for me as the ‘turning of the tide’ that Oxford talk about in their hype videos. They tell a story of strength in the face of adversity. Both crews should be exceptionally proud to have raced such a high calibre event and hopefully a signal to the Cambridge coaches that Allan French means business. The tide is starting to turn and it’s navy blue(-ish).