Two wins in two. A one hundred percent record. When we first teamed up with Cambridge University in early 2022, we never dreamed that we would be sitting here with two victories on the grandest stage of them all. Thanks to the visionary leadership of Paddy Ryan and the incredible teamwork of two Cambridge squads, our Filippi shell – the same F42 mould used by the reigning female world champions from Romania – has helped guide successive crews to victory in the 76th and 77th Women’s Boat Races.
After the heroics of 2022 – where long-time ally Grace Prendergast helped lead a superlative Light Blue outfit to a course record and triumph on the Tideway – Cambridge women arrived into 2023 with far less obvious daylight between themselves and a resurgent Oxford crew. Race day dawned stormy and sullen with grey clouds skidding overhead and a fierce headwind riling up an already unpredictable Tideway. After winning the toss and selecting the Surrey station, Cambridge lined up in the shadows of Putney Bridge chasing a sixth successive title.
Oxford enjoyed the better of the two starts in chastening conditions, demonstrating the explosive opening power that towpath gossip had whipped up a frenzy around in the weeks leading up to the race. The Light Blues, steered by junior world silver medalist and former St Paul’s schoolboy James Trotman, remained unfazed though – our boat and our crew were proving themselves to be fierce competitors against an early-running Oxford.
As the race wore on, Cambridge began to squeeze the Dark Blues, clawing back the deficit seat by seat and demonstrating the technical prowess of both their bladework and the shell which was carrying them. After hitting the front, Caoimhe Dempsey, competing in her third Boat Race and stroking the crew as President in 2023, never looked likely to relinquish the advantage. The superior power and poise of her group was obvious and well balanced alongside a Filippi shell that proved a robust and reliable companion in testing conditions.
Cox Trotman, who made his name steering St Paul’s School to victory in the 2022 edition of the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup, demonstrated his knack for decisive in-game decisions; his strong hand on the rudder allowed Cambridge to shut the door on any potential for an Oxford comeback. As the water calmed around the long Surrey bend, the Light Blues were able to stretch their lead to several lengths of clear water and begin to enjoy the uniqueness of the occasion. They finished in 20 minutes and 29 seconds, four and a half lengths clear of Oxford.
A positive collaboration like this is rare in sport; where the reality of the cooperation outflanks the dream that prompted the first discussion. Filippi’s partnership with Cambridge women has yielded phenomenal success – two wins in two races that establishes a Light Blue dynasty under the unerring leadership of Paddy Ryan. It was a magical weekend for everyone associated with Cambridge – they recorded a clean sweep of all available categories for only the third time in history. Perhaps next year, the men’s squad will consider testing the same product that has led their female counterparts to such giddy heights.
Huge congratulations to Cambridge, Paddy, Caoimhe and everyone involved with Cambridge University Boat Club. We are already eagerly awaiting a renewal of ties for the 2024 match-up.