A narrow win in the men's race and a comfortable victory in the women's saw Newcastle's rowers once again claim the Boat Race of the North.
Rescheduled and relocated, 2018's race formed part of the prestigious Durham Regatta, a weekend of races involving teams from all over the country. Newcastle went into the event as the reigning Boat Race of the North champions, having won the overall title at each of the three previous events. They took to the Wear at lunchtime on Saturday just a month after winning the Victor Ludorum title at the BUCS Regatta and even with a Pride of Newcastle award under their belts as they prepared to battle once again against their fiercest rivals.
With Club President Alex Turner as their cox, the men's team made steady progress but were unable to shake off a determined Durham contingent. 100 seconds into the 700m race and the boats remained level and it was only with a final flourish that Newcastle could claim the narrowest of victories, the Durham boat crossing the finish line just three feet behind.
Angelo Savarino, Newcastle's Head of Rowing and the man credited with turning the club's fortunes around since he arrived in 2005, said afterwards: “We knew it would have been a close call for the boys, as the result of a three feet victory shows, because they were missing one of the top rowers and having to rearrange the order of the crew for that reason.”[pullquote]The Boat Race in March had to be cancelled due to bad weather[/pullquote]
There were no such issues for the women's team, who opened up a convincing lead in the opening stages of their race. For the fourth time in four years Durham's women were soundly beaten by the Blue Stars, who finished 1.75 boat lengths in front.
On Sunday the same team returned to their boat for a rematch, this time as part of the Championship 8s in the Regatta. A swift win against one Durham team saw them take on another in the final, and once again it was Newcastle who came out victorious.
In the men's Championship 8s three Newcastle teams battled it out for the Reverend C J Saunders trophy, named in honour of a Durham University rower of a century ago. A preliminary race between Newcastle's first and second teams ended in a definitive win for the firsts, who then swept passed Tyne Amateur Rowing Club in the next round to set up a final against Newcastle's lightweight team. The Blue Star battle ended with a resounding win for the first team, making it four out of four for Newcastle in the weekend's 8s races.
cox: Alex Turner
cox: Hannah Taylor
Although other Newcastle teams took part in some of the weekend's 208 races none were able to better this success, although Lizzie Fuller and Kat Bulmer did make it into the final of the women's elite coxless pairs.
It was the Boat Race, though, that really saw the Blue Stars shine, with club coach Alex Leight describing the atmosphere on the banks of the Wear as “noticeably electric” during the head to head race.
That the race happened at all was testament to the organisational skills of the Durham and Newcastle rowing clubs. The original event in March had to be cancelled due to bad weather, with snow blocking roads across the North East and the teams unable to even get their boats safely to the Tyne, let alone row down it.
Unlike the 2000 and 2003 editions, however, bad weather didn't stop the race completely, and a slimmed-down event was eventually rearranged to take place alongside the Durham Regatta. Only the senior men's and women's teams competed and, for the first time in the event's 21-year history, the action took place on the River Wear.
Newcastle's victory away from home marks a decade since Durham last won the overall trophy, although this is in part due to their refusal to take part in the event from 2011-14. Since the race was first held in 1997 Durham have won outright on eight occasions, while 2018 is Newcastle's fourth.