The On Deck Circle

The unofficial home of Real Talk

EuroSport Experiences

Posted by Blake Murphy on April 7, 2008

This article has been submitted by world traveler Alex Jackson.

While most of you were savoring the Elite Eight match-ups recently, I was sleeping. It’s not that I dislike college hoops, it’s more I just can’t justify staying up late enough to watch them on an unreliable internet connection. So when 17:15 GMT Saturday evening rolled around, I turned on the old Tele (that’s British speak to you) and decided to see what EuroSport had to offer.

To my surprise, there was quite the spectacle. Yes, it was the Boat Race. The Boat Race. The 154th annual rowing competition between Oxford and Cambridge. Crews from the two schools compete over a 6,779 meter course through London on the Thames. The course is an S-shape and goes from Putney to Mortlake, passing through both Hammersmith and Barnes.

I can only describe the buildup and preshow as Kentucky Derby-esque. Every imaginable storyline was covered in several tightly put together video montages. We learned that Cambridge’s Tobias Garnett, from Putney, grew up watching the race and his lifelong dream was to equal the feat of his great uncle Kenneth Garnett who rowed for Cambridge in 1914.

We also discovered that Oxford’s Michael Wherley, the oldest competitor in this years race at the age of 36, is a two time US Olympian (Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004), a three time World Champion (1997-1999), and a seven time US National Champion. Despite all of his previous accomplishments, Wherley was delighted to enroll in his MSc in Financial Economics, because it gave him the opportunity to compete in the Boat Race.

Another storyline was that of mutton chop wearing Aaron Marcovy, a 24 year old American who is pursuing a PhD in Fine Art. One of his favorite mediums to use in his art is steel; he is a welder. In honor of being selected to the Crew, he welded together a sculpture that depicted the tips of two boats narrowly crossing the finish line.

After all of the montages and storylines, it was race time. It was a stormy looking day, and the commentators said the conditions were less than ideal. Flashbacks were shown of another stormy race, in 1978, where the Cambridge boat sank mid-race. With advances in technology, though, another sinking was unlikely.

After a tight battle over the first half of the course, Cambridge had a slight lead, however, Oxford powered through in the rougher conditions to claim their third win in the last five years. Early on, things looked as though they might get out of control, as the oars of the two boats touched briefly. After a warning by the umpire, the two boats distanced themselves from each other.

Heading into the final bend, Oxford proved their mettle; they gave it a last kick and built a solid lead. With a six length lead, Oxford crossed the finish line in 20 minutes and 53 seconds; the slowest time since 1947.

I could get used to watching the Boat Race. While I likely wouldn’t be able to tolerate rowing on a weekly basis like I do Nascar and F1, I enjoyed it as a once a year spectacle. Holding an event like this once a year allows for sufficient stories to be built, a chance to learn about the competitors, and truly see the best that Oxford and Cambridge have to offer.

In my EuroSport rankings, I would say the Boat Race is better than a televised biathlon.

This article has been submitted by world traveler Alex Jackson.

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