With the Thames Boat Race drawn one- all between the women’s and men’s eights, the 2022 Oxbridge rowing season was to be decided by the Aotearoa Boat Race, navigating the taniwha of the Tāmaki.

As per the established format, mixed crews assembled at 11am, with fine weather, a zephyr of a north-easterly and a slight incoming tide. Following a mihi whakatau from Monty Wawatai, kaumātua of Auckland Rowing Club, Oxford won the toss and chose the Highbrook (far) side of the inlet.

There was some
concern (again) at the number of Oxford ring-ins, one of whom boasted in the introductions to be an alumnus of Te Atatu Intermediate. Further, Oxford had selected not only their own boat but also that which Cambridge was to race, ‘kindly’ placing it on trestles beforehand so there could be no confusion.

There was pensive reflection as the Light Blues hit the water, having had just one familiarisation row the day before.

There was pensive reflection as the Light Blues hit the water, having had just one familiarisation row the day before. However, in just over one hour ex-Cambridge coach Grant Craies, as coxswain, had turned a  fairly tippy boat into a balanced machine.

At the start the race official wasted no time and, with the boats in position, lowered the red flag two minutes before noon. Cambridge opened with a 36-stroke rate and by 300m had half a length on Oxford. Cambridge were

modestly surprised at their position at this point. The lead extended slightly during the race and the experienced Light Blue cox took the boat on an enthusiastic course to make the Dark Blue’s work a longer path. This earned a sharp warning from the race umpire over the loud hailer.

Steering for home, energy began to wane, as the crew had been led to believe that ‘four minutes should do it’. The Light Blues crossed the line half a canvas in front in 4:45.

As Vangelis’s ‘Chariots of Fire’ swelled, a telegram was dispatched to the boatsheds on the Cam to let them know of victory and glory on behalf of everything light blue.

Thank you to Auckland Rowing Club for hosting the event and providing the boats, race officials for fair and firm calls, wonderful catering (including Pimms of course) and the many supporters. And thank you to Oxford. With the Aotearoa series now squared at one-all, there is much riding on 2023.