In the final week of preparations for Eight’s Head, Brookes returned to the Tideway this Sunday in a rescheduled fixture against two crews from Cambridge University. In addition to this, fixtures were also arranged against Imperial College and Thames Rowing Club. For each fixture, the pieces ran from the Boat Race start to Chiswick Steps, and then from Chiswick Steps to the Finish.
In the first fixture of the day, the 4th VIII raced Thames RC. Thames won the toss and chose the Surrey side for the first piece. Both crews started strong, but it was Brookes who managed to make the first move, and by Barn Elms were able to break just clear of Thames. Thames then put in a considerable effort to come back in to a slight overlap and as the crews reached Hammersmith. Going under Hammersmith, both coxes steered exceptional lines with Brookes blades running within inches of Thames bow deck for some considerable time. After a considerable effort by both crews Brookes eventually broke clear and were able to extend their lead and hold a comfortable margin in to the finish.
The crews swapped stations for the second piece, which saw a much more aggressive start from Thames. However, Brookes made immediate use of the first bend to squeeze into the lead, which stood at around a length until Brookes clipped a drifting launch down one side. Despite this, Brookes finished strong and took the piece by 1/3 of a length.
Next up, the Brookes 3rd VIII took on Imperial College – where Imperial won the toss and chose the Middlesex Station. Brookes led from the start and sat comfortably at just over 3/4 length up as they reached the initial Middlesex bend. As the bend changed direction towards Hammersmith, Brookes stretched out to 1 1/2 lengths, which they maintained until the finish.
In the second piece, Brookes gained a similar lead off the start, sitting at about 3/4 length with much flatter conditions in this stretch. Both crews pushed hard, with the momentum swinging throughout the latter half of the piece. Brookes finished 3/4 of a length ahead of Imperial, in a great duel that will prepare both crews well for the coming weeks.
The 2nd VIII, following a successful fixture against Isis the previous week, raced Goldie- the Cambridge University reserve crew. A very impressive start saw Brookes take a substantial lead in the opening couple of minutes, and were able to move in front of Goldie before the river turned in their favour. As the crews reached the finish at Chiswick Steps, Brookes had a comfortable margin over Goldie.
The second piece saw the crews switch stations, giving Goldie the favoured Middlesex Bend. This time the crews started with a rolling start, and although Goldie appeared to jump ahead initially, the higher rating Brookes crew pushed through and within a minute had taken a length from Goldie. This lead was further extended through the piece, with Brookes again finishing with a comfortable clear water margin over Goldie.
Finally, the Brookes 1st VIII and Cambridge Blue Boat took to the water in a highly anticipated duel. The Brookes crew had changed slightly from their victory against Oxford the previous week, with Matt Tarrant and Josh Bugajski coming into the crew. The Cambridge crew was high calibre, with two Olympians on board- so the fixture was sure to be a good test ahead of Eight’s Head and The Boat Race. Brookes won the toss and chose to start on the Surrey Station.
Some interesting positioning coming on to the start from both cox’s meant umpire Rob Clegg ordered both crews to paddle around again and realign. Once they got going, it was Cambridge who had the stronger start, and stretched to a 1/2 length lead as the crews passed Craven Cottage. The umpire was kept busy throughout the piece with both crews steering extremely close on a choppy and angry thames. As the river swung to Surrey, Brookes put pressure on Cambridge and took back the lead just before Hammersmith. The piece remained at a searing tempo neither crew able to let up and as both crews sprinted to the line, it was Brookes edging Cambridge by 2/3 of a length at the finish.
The second piece started in a similar fashion, with Cambridge pushing out to a 1/2 length lead. Again, the crews remained very very close throughout the entire race. Cambridge had managed to squeeze out to almost 3/4 of a length but it was now Brookes that were holding the faster pace going under barnes bridge and began to push back around the outside of the Middlesex Bend. With mainly Cambridge under a heavy fire from the Umpire Rob Clegg, it was clear that they were under considerable pressure and as Brookes cox Harry Brightmore was not willing to bend or alter from his line, a heavy clash ensued with Cambridge stopping to pick up a crab. Brookes already on to their pudding quickly capitalised and spooned their way through- pushing out to a 1 length lead, which they then held to the finish. This fixture was two extremely hard fought races which we hope has provided the platform for both crews to gain in experience moving to the HORR and the Boat Race.
This was not the only racing for BROOKES|Rowing this weekend- the rest of the squad raced at Kingston Head of the River on Saturday. The women’s 1st VIII posted the fastest women’s time of the day to win Band 1 W8+, and the women’s quad also won the W4x in the afternoon division.
Brookes next head to the Eight’s Head, where there are eight men’s and two women’s eights entered in what will be their final head race before the regatta season starts in May.
Photos courtesy of AllMarkOne