Blue star rule the waves

James Sproston was one of many along the Tyne, watching the twenty-first Boat Race of the North

James Sproston
15th May 2017
Iconic: Newcastle and Durham raced against a Tyne backdrop. Image: James Sproston

On a wind-swept Saturday afternoon at the Quayside, Newcastle University Boat Club battled it out with Durham across six races to see who truly rules the waves in the North East.

Having competed against each other on the Tyne since 1997, the Boat Race of the North pits rowing’s two northern heavyweights against each other across the 1500m distance along arguably the most iconic backdrop in the North East.

Starting at the High Level Bridge, the boats travel through the arches of the Swing Bridge before heading under the Tyne Bridge, at which point it’s a sprint to the finishing line under the Millennium Bridge, where the boats are greeted my hundreds of cheering spectators.

Looking at the recent history of the race, Newcastle had reasons to be confident. Durham have not claimed the trophy since 2008, and last year was another dominant display of Blue Star’s prowess.

However, this was not always the case, as Durham won every year from its inception in 1997 to 2004, ignoring the 2000 and 2003 events that were cancelled due to poor rowing conditions.

Hundreds of people packed out the banks of the Tyne to watch the boats in action

Newcastle change in fortune was undoubtedly down to the arrival of Angelo Savarino as Head of Rowing in the Sports Centre. In 2005, Newcastle won two of the four races to prevent an outright Durham victory for the first time, and did so again in 2007.

Two years later, in 2009, Newcastle won their first Boat Race of the North trophy, and have not given it up since.

Last year’s encounter finished with an overall 4-2 win for Newcastle, as Durham claimed both novice victories, but came up short against Newcastle’s 1s and 2s. Again this year, looking at the results from BUCS Regatta, it would take a colossal effort for Durham to overcome six very strong Blue Star boats.

Nevertheless, hundreds of people packed out the banks of the Tyne and the Millennium Bridge to watch the boats in action, and it was Durham that took the early advantage. The first race of the afternoon, the Novice Women’s category, was won by Durham’s boat of first years by clear water.

Ten minutes after the Novice Women’s race had started, the Novice Men’s race got under way. Coxed by Hannah Taylor and consisting of Peter Robins, Hal Wheatly, Francis Gainsbourgh, Freddie Strawson, Arthur Newman Alex Manson, Tom Padwick, Tom Astell, Newcastle put in an assured performance, with two lengths between the two boats.

Water warriors: Newcastle's women's boats won two of their three races. Image: James Sproston

Water warriors: Newcastle's women's boats won two of their three races. Image: James Sproston

The next race was equally as one-sided, as Newcastle’s Women’s 2s stormed home to have clear water between themselves and the Durham boat. Having won by five and a half boat lengths last year, Charlie Adams, Phoebe Truett, Anna Van de Braak, Kathryn Eccles, Sundee Denton-Chandler, Harriet Aubrook, Lucy Stanhope, Charlie Dobson and cox Charlotte Hill were under pressure to deliver again and they did, leaving Durham well in their wake.

Next up, the Men’s 2s set up underneath High Level Bridge ready to do battle. By the finishing point, the Newcastle boat had matched last year’s performance, winning by the boat and three quarters margin that they achieved last time out.

With the score at 3-1, Newcastle had already secured the trophy for yet another year. However, there was still much to be played for as the biggest and best were still to compete.

Newcastle had the psychological advantage, bettering Durham at the BUCS Regatta just a week before in both the men’s and women’s categories, but with that came an added pressure.

First up were the Women’s 1s. At BUCS Regatta, less than a second separated the two boats at the 1500m mark, so even a betting man would think twice before committing his coppers to one of these two teams.

Nevertheless, Newcastle started the stronger of the two, emerging from the Swing Bridge with a clear advantage. As the crew of cox Sasha Adwani, Megan Barry, Harriet Roddy, Emily Ford, Lola Anderson, Kate Woolley, Lydia Davis, Natasha Harris-White, Fiona Chestnutt passed under the Tyne Bridge, Durham seemed to find something extra, but with the spectators cheering them on from the NE1 makeshift beach, Newcastle still cruised home with over a boat length advantage.

9 consecutive Boat Race wins for NUBC

Finally, it was time for the Men’s 1s. Durham had disappointed at BUCS Regatta, not making it into the final, whilst Newcastle’s boat finished fifth in the A final.

When it came down to the race, Newcastle were again dominant from the off. The remaining supporters crammed onto the Millennium Bridge to cheerMichael Trevena, William Stewart, James Robson, Alex Haynes, William New, Henry Lambe, Barnaby Stroud and cox Alex Turner over the finish line for the final time and celebrate a convincing 5-1 victory.

Club president and Men’s 1s rower Barnaby Stroud said that “The Tyne provides an amazing waterway in which to race, it is great to see the city from a riverside perspective and have crowds lining the Quayside and cheering us on.”

Concerning this year’s race, he added “this year’s event was brilliant; it proved popular with the competitors and public alike. We were very happy with winning and we are keen to see it return again next year.”

It’s no surprise that Newcastle consistently perform so well, but it’s brilliant to see how far they’ve come. Though it’s exponentially harder to climb higher, Blue Star will hope to continue their meteoric rise to the top, and challenge for more and more medals in the
coming years.

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