The 2008 running of the Womens' Head of the River race on Saturday was certainly as unpredictable as many expected given the absence of Britain's elite oarswomen at a pre-Olympic training camp. In the picture above, one of many in a marvellous Flickr set from London Annie, you can see last year's winners, Thames A, on the far right being overhauled by Osiris, the Oxford University Blues Boat, who went on to take the headship having started from fourth place. Nottingham Rowing Club on the far left also passed Thames to take fourth place, the holders eventually finishing fifth. In a great race for the city of dreaming spires, the Oxford Brookes University crew made up 32 places to come second. Durham University climbed 6 spots to claim third, the University of London Women's A boat made sixth and a combined crew including representation from the Mortlake club, somehow made up 164 places to cross the line just behind them.
My ability to sense of the passage of time disappears completely during races. Once in a race, it is as if there is only a single moment, the cycle of a stroke, which is endlessly repeated, the start being an incomprehensibly long time ago and the promise of the end being an agonisingly incomprehensible long time into the future. We overtook five crews on the way down to Putney. Our first victims tried to steer into us at one point (this is not very sporting and nor is it very bright). Fortunately our cox had words with his counterpart, and they moved across with roasting ears. The second crew we overtook seemed to be having steering issues, too, but these seemed beyond their control. Judging by the way they were apparently moving at random around the river (including clashing blades with us a couple of times) they'd probably lost their rudder and weren't able to steer. Our crew were collectively a little wound up by this point, having lost valuable seconds through being impeded...
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