Rowing: Cambridge enlightened by shadow competition

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Cambridge got the better of Oxford in the shadow competition of the Trial Eights yesterday by at least completing the course without clash or injury and by relegating to the third boat the giant among 50-year- olds, Andy Ripley, who as a star performer on the indoor machine was expected by the uninitiated to be a certain Blue.

The two key ingredients of the sponsor's gin, Juniper and Angelica, were lined up at Putney Bridge and started by the umpire, Simon Harris, into a rough cross-headwind. Mindful of the difficulties his counterpart, Terry Dillon, had experienced keeping the Oxford coxes apart, Harris had the flag up within 10 strokes, before the crews had a chance to settle to a rhythm, but he had little to do as they stayed level to a minute after the Black Buoy when, as they turned round Craven Cottage the rough water and a long swell made matters worse for Angelica, stroked by Toby Wallace and steered by Suzie Ellis, than for Juniper, stroked by the Canadian international Brad Crombie, which managed to draw away steadily to the Harrods Depository.

There Ellis, now a length of open water behind, tucked in behind Juniper, coxed by Alistair Potts, and the umpire had his flag up again although there was no chance of a clash and the crews had a perfect right to take what water they wanted. At Hammersmith Bridge a rescue vessel was moored out in the stream and Potts took the correct decision to go wide round it rather than try to cut inside. This gave Ellis, the more experienced cox and the one who knows the Tideway better, a chance to take a better line and for a time she was two boat widths inside her opponent's course at the beginning of the Surrey bend.

To prove the water better they closed rapidly and the boats looked certain for a spectacular collision as their lines crossed. As Harris put it afterwards: "There was vertical as well as horizontal overlaps, but, fortunately, not at the same time."

Ellis was more blunt. "I was going for the bump. They had been going over the rough water and swell while we had been hitting it all. That was the difference between the stations which we lost at the toss. It was our only chance really."

From there, her crew back on the correct station, Angelica slipped away to lose by four lengths when Juniper crossed in 18min 41sec.