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Exeter students compete in the 2024 Boat Races

This year’s Boat Races, which took place on the 30th of March, featured three talented Exeter students. Jelmer Bennema (2023, MSc in Mathematical and Computational Finance), Ella Stadler (2019, History; 2022, MPhil History of Science, Medicine, and Technology), and Maria Nielson-Scott (2018, Medicine) represented Oxford in the men’s, women’s, and women’s reserve boats respectively.

Sadly, only one of the three emerged victorious, Maria helping Oxford’s Osiris boat to victory in the women’s reserves race. Remarkably, Maria was racing against her sister, Helen, who attends Exeter’s sister college, Emmanuel College, Cambridge.

In the women’s race, Oxford began the race as favourites and started strongly, taking an early lead, but Cambridge fought back hard to pull level and, with the Surrey bend in their favour, gradually move into the lead. A pivotal moment came around 12 minutes into the race, with the bow of Oxford’s boat clipping Cambridge’s stern. The incident affected Oxford’s rhythm and they quickly fell several lengths back, never to recover. Cambridge went on to win by seven lengths and to stretch their overall record in the women’s race to 48 wins to Oxford’s 30.

Oxford’s men’s crew also went into their race appearing to be the stronger crew on paper. However their race preparation was hampered first by flood water preventing them from training on water as much as Cambridge and then by several members of the crew falling sick in the hours before the race, quite possibly because of high levels of sewerage in the Thames.

Cambridge’s men’s crew, in the Middlesex station, defied their status as underdogs by opening up over a length’s lead by the time they reached the long Surrey bend. That allowed them to move into the best water and pull further ahead. The race remained tense as Cambridge’s Matt Edge, in the stroke seat, tired significantly in the closing stages and was barely able to dip his oar in the water. That allowed Oxford to close the gap, but there was insufficient time to draw level, and Cambridge crossed the finish line three and a half lengths ahead.

In the women’s reserve boat race Oxford were comfortable winners, beating Cambridge by five lengths.

Exeter has two further students in the University squads, Harriet Cooper (2021, Engineering Science) and Victoria Fletcher (2021, English). While Torpids had to be cancelled in Hilary Term due to the high river level, we look forward to watching Exeter’s formidable rowers come together for Summer Eights in Trinity Term in pursuit of Blades.

A replay of the Boat Races is available to watch in the UK on BBC iPlayer.

The 2024 Exeter College rowers on the Boat Race squads

From left to right: Jelmer Bennema, Ella Stadler, Victoria Fletcher, Harriet Cooper, and Maria Nielson-Scott