LOCAL pride was at stake in an epic contest between Oxford University and Oxford Brookes in ocean-going conditions over the Boat Race course, writes John Wiggins.

Oxford, with four returning Blues, just got the measure of a classy Brookes crew in this trial, reversing the outcome of this encounter last year in similarly unpleasant, rough water.

The Dark Blues’ head coach Sean Bowden was delighted with the experience that his provisional Boat Race crew gained, not only in the conditions, which both handled well, but holding nerve and pace around the outside of the bend under relentless pressure.

Henry Bailhache-Webb, Brookes’ head coach, recognising the calibre of the Oxford squad containing two Olympians as well as under 23 and senior internationals, was hugely satisfied with his crew’s performance.

The all-graduate Dark Blue rowers clearly had the benefit of age and weight, especially in a headwind in conditions that would have cancelled virtually any other event.

Brookes’ strength lay in their cohesion, all having rowed in the same boats for the past two years or


Oxford might have lost the second half had the Brookes bowman not come unseated in the last few strokes to leave a margin of a few feet.

But in the first section from Putney to Chiswick Eyot, Oxford moved ahead from the start and took control after a few minutes, breaking clear with a strong push at


As they hit the roughest of water in the final minutes, Brookes smoothly clawed back, almost to an overlap.

Brookes, with only one crew change, had got the better of Cambridge in a similar fixture, albeit four weeks ago when the Light Blues would not have been quite so established.

Oxford’s reserve boat, Isis raced the Brookes B boat with the aggregate win going to Brookes. Isis rowed well to take the first race by a few feet, but struggled to retain their form in the second.

Elsewhere and in kinder conditions, Hinksey Sculling School had a happy visit to the Avon County Head where they won six of the 14 events contested.

Stanley Cannons, the J17 singles winner, was the fastest of all scullers on the day and with Hugo Binnian, Will Wakefield and Will Shell also won the J17 quad event.

Joe Elwig took the J18 singles crown, while the fastest double scull of the day were Rafe Stanford-Meisl and Andrew Clark in winning the J16 event.

The Hinksey girls, Amelia Ledgard-Hoile and Clarisse Astruc, won in the J16 double, while Mae Willoughby, Dearbhla Reala-Vargas, Harriet Wilson, Jojo Blyth and Phoebe May triumphed in the J15 coxed quad.