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On Saturday 18th March, the University of Bristol battled UWE in the 22nd annual Boat Race between the two. For the second year in a row, Bristol took home the blade, providing them with the perfect start to this year’s Varsity Series.

It wasn’t all plain sailing for University of Bristol’s Boat Club however as they got off to a difficult start in the opening blade race, which saw their Novice Men 1st 8 fall short of UWE by three lengths. Next to row was the Novice Women 1st who, after going toe to toe with UWE for most of the 1300 metre course, managed to hold on to win the race and level the scores.

There was a brief interlude for two races between visiting Llandaff Rowing Club and Swansea University before Bristol Novice Men 2nd were given a chance to row against UWE. Despite the race having no bearing on the overall result, both crews rowed ferociously, and UoB were unfortunate to lose. A similar fate was met by a composite Bristol side, which fell short of a strong Cardiff University Women’s 8.

Next up were the Men and Women’s Senior 2nd 8s, who looked to set a winning tone against two strong Cardiff University crews. Combatting adverse conditions, they were unlucky to lose by a length and half. It was a far tighter affair in the women’s race, which saw them pip Cardiff at the post, winning the race by a canvas.

The Bristol novice men’s first 8 in choppy conditions at the start of the day

Given time to catch their breath, the crowd were then treated to two Alumni races, featuring former university rowers representing Nonesuch Boat Club.

With the scores tied at 1-1, it was all to play for in the final two blade races of the day. Up first was the Men Senior first 8 who, after a difficult start, held their nerve to win by quarter of a length and put Bristol firmly in the ascendancy.

The stage was set for the Women Senior first boat, who knew victory would secure the blade and the all-important Varsity point. Bristol weren’t phased- to the delight of the gathered crowd, they cruised to victory.

Reflecting on the victory, club captain Alex Heslop singled out the Women’s 8s contribution to the cause: ‘We’re delighted to have won on Saturday, and to take all of the women’s races was brilliant. It really showed the strength of our women’s programme, which is stepping up quickly, and performing well beyond its experience’.

Four of the Bristol women’s senior first boat celebrate their comfortable victory

It was a truly professional performance from UoB, and Heslop put this down to the club’s makeup this year: ‘The key to our success has to lie in the internal competition within the club in the build up to races, as no member of any crew is safe, and are always being challenged by other rowers’.

Going forward, there are a few big races coming up, starting with the Men’s Head of the River Race from Chiswick Bridge to Putney Bridge next week, as they will hope to emulate the women’s success in the Women’s Head which saw them placed 31st, the highest placing for a Bristol crew in 14 years. After that, the club will head to a training camp in Snowdonia, before taking on the BUCS Regatta in Nottingham, a key chance to scout the competition before the summer racing season and much anticipated regattas at Henley.

Cheer on Bristol in this year’s Varsity and get involved by using the hashtag #WeAreBristol and  follow updates of all the events on our social media:

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