Post Boat Race Blues - What's Next?

Post Boat Race Blues - What's Next?

The Boat Race is one of the world's foremost sporting events and garners attention from across the globe, not least in the UK where it's staging on the river Thames draws thousands of people to the riverbank to watch the four crews do battle. 

Winner or loser, no-one who has raced in the historic contest will ever forget their experience. For many, it represents the pinnacle of their rowing career; for others, it is one stepping stone towards international glory. Whoever you are, the immediate aftermath of the race is tricky - national media descend upon you and the culmination of nine months of introspective emotion is unleashed as a victor or a loser. 

So, what happens to the athletes after The Boat Race? We spoke with three members of the most recent crop of Blue Boats to find out what their reactions, feelings, and next steps were.

Julia Lindsay, OUWBC, Four Seat

How did it feel to compete in The Boat Race?

Above all, it felt like a massive privilege. It’s rare as a rower, especially from North America, to compete in a race that so many people care about. Racing in front of a million live spectators was unlike anything I’ve ever done before. I count myself lucky to have competed in both the closest (2021) and fastest (2022) women’s boat races to date. I think all of the athletes are grateful to the organizers, sponsors and spectators who contributed to those experiences.

What are your plans for rowing in the near term and how are you viewing your future in rowing? 

We have a few races lined up for the summer but nothing on the same scale as the Boat Race. I’m looking forward to some fun racing at Sveti Duje Regatta in Croatia which is 1 km sprints. For now I’m spending time prioritizing other areas of my life and playing it by ear when it comes to rowing.

What was the immediate aftermath of The Boat Race like for you?

Pretty tough to be honest! There was so much going on at the finish line, from discussions between the umpire, our crew and coaches plus media interviews, the podium presentation and the presence of everyone’s friends and families. Combined with the physical and emotional exhaustion of the race, the experience was quite draining and I felt like I was walking around in a haze for the next day or so. It took me a few days to process the race and fully appreciate the experience.

Angus Groom, OUBC, Seven Seat

How did it feel to compete in The Boat Race?

The Boat Race experience is unique - the Tideway and particularly at Putney feels like an amphitheatre with crowds on all sides. I haven’t experienced crowd noise like it in rowing before. You have to focus very hard on the sound of your cox’s voice and stick to the plan. The race has the ability to change momentum very quickly so as a crew you have to keep a cool head and acknowledge that the opposing crew can take 1/2L just because of stream conditions/the inside of a bend. So you have to be very proactive and aggressive in your tactics. The intensity off the start feels like a 2k race (if not harder) and it feels like you just keep that intensity for the full 6.8km. It’s an incredibly hard race but coming through Barnes Bridge and hearing all the cheers, sitting 2 ½ lengths up gave me goosebumps, and I remember telling myself to savour the remaining 3mins of racing as they were the last I would have.

What are your plans following the event and why have you chosen now to retire from the sport?

I still have 3 more years left of my DPhil in Medical Sciences to complete. This is very much the beginning of my new career as a scientist and I am loving the transition to my new life. My research focuses on the very early mutations in blood stem cells and how they can lead to various types of leukemia. I have chosen to retire from rowing as I feel I have achieved all that I want to in the sport and also to explore new things in my life. Coming into Tokyo 2020 the best result we thought was realistic was a bronze medal, so to win the silver medal feels like we won the gold. It meant so much to me particularly after lots of near misses in my rowing career. To win the Boat Race in such fashion completes my rowing career and I am so grateful for all that it has given me.

What was the immediate aftermath of The Boat Race like for you?

After the race and coming into the finish area at Mortlake, it was very special to be able to celebrate straight away with all of the squad- Isis, the spare pair and all the guys we had spent all year training with. The Oxford Boat Race dinner was a lot of fun and the experience of celebrating with the alumni who are so connected to the club goes to show how special the Boat Race is and how it leaves a mark on everyone involved in it. Following that, we all have our degrees to complete. It is very much in work mode now- some people have exams coming up, but for me I am keen to get back to the lab and do experiments I have had planned for a while!

Imogen Grant, CUBC, Stroke Seat

How did it feel to compete in The Boat Race again?

It feels like such a long time since I last raced in a Blue Boat. I last competed in 2018 which was when I had to also make the decision to take time out from my medical degree and train full time for the Olympics. To come back in 2022, having raced internationally, I felt like in many ways I was a different person but also appreciative of the same routines. I wasn't actually going to do a Boat Race as I thought it would be a bit too much trying to maintain my sculling and fit in all on my medical placements in the region. Over time though, I jumped in a couple of the sweep boats and little by little Paddy (CUBC Women's Head Coach) persuaded me back. I'm so so glad he did. I had the most fantastic time and it was a privilege to be in the stroke seat of such a fantastic eight. Crossing the line this year was actually quite emotional - I sort of burst into tears, partly from the joy of winning and partly from the knowledge that I'll never get to row in that crew again.

What are your plans for rowing in the near term and how are you viewing your future in rowing? 

I'm definitely not finished with rowing just yet. Right now, I'm pretty focused on my studies and placements plus preparing for BUCS. Paris is certainly something I'm thinking about but I want to get through the rest of this season before making any firm commitments in either direction.

What was the immediate aftermath of The Boat Race like for you?

Like I said, I was pretty overcome with emotion crossing the line. Getting back to land and enjoying the celebrations was pretty magical, as it has been before, but a few days after the race, I actually tested positive for COVID. That wasn't ideal so I'm on the road to recovery and with BUCS ahead, I've just been focusing on my training and ensuring I'm in the best shape possible to take that event head on. 


words by Junior Rowing News
photo by Rosie Percy


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