STAGING The Clash of the Veterans - British Rowing

The Clash of the Veterans


The start of the 20th Oxford-Cambridge Veterans’ Boat Race, held the day before the clash of the younger Blues, saw the score standing at 13-6 in favour of Cambridge, victors for the last three years. It was to be Oxford’s day with the older Dark Blues getting the better of their opponents. 

The rules of the event are as for the University Boat Race except that the minimum qualifying age is 35 and the crew average must not be less than 42. Also, perhaps more in deference more to their training commitments than their years, they do not row the full course and abide by the gentlemanly rule that ‘any verdict within six feet shall be declared a dead heat’.


Cambridge, with an average age of 42 and average weight of 14st 7lbs, had Bernd Heidicker and Sebastian Schulte, both from Germany’s World Championship winning eight of 2006, in the stern pair at stroke and seven respectively. There were two other Olympians in the crew, Tom Middleton at bow and Matt Parish at six. David Dix, rowing at three, only rowed for his college while at Cambridge but he is a Rugby Blue and an Australian rugby international. Oxford were a little older (47) and lighter (14st 5 lbs) but could boast Olympic medallists and World champions Barney Williams at stroke and Jonny Searle at seven.

In good conditions, umpire Sarah Winckless set the crews off from just above Hammersmith Bridge. Unsurprisingly, both crews went off high and then settled around 36 but the final result soon became apparent. Within 30 strokes, Oxford were four seats up and had increased this to eight up by Harrods. Soon there was clear water and by the time they passed the Mile Post, the Dark Blues were three or four lengths up. However, Cambridge never gave up and by the traditional Putney finish they had decreased the gap to the official verdict of two-and-three-quarter lengths.

Oxford crew:
Bow Richard Shirley  Squad 91, N02
2 Nick Holland I80, B82
3 Hugh Pelham B87, 88, B89
4 Chris Heathcote B90
5 Dan Johnson I89, 90
6 Toby Ayer I97, 98, B99, 00
7 Jonny Searle B88, 89, 90, N89-97, O92, 96
Stroke Barney Williams N03, 05, 06, 07, O04, B05, 06
Cox Zoe de Toledo I11, B12, N13, 14

Cambridge crew:

Bow Tom Middleton L96, N97, 98, 99, 01, O00
2 Paul Wright G82, 83, N87
3 David Dix Pembroke 92, Rugby B91, 92
4 Steffen Buschbacher G03, B04, 05
5 Stephen Fowler B90, 92, G91
6 Matthew Parish B94, 95, N93, 94, 95, O96
7 Sebastian Schulte B05, 06, 07, N02, 06, 07, O04
Stroke Bernd Heidicker B05, N99-08, O00, O04
Cox  Sarah Smart G12

B – Blue; L – Lightweight 1/2 Blue; O – Olympic Team; N – International Team; G – Goldie; I – Isis 

Milepost: Oxford 3:35.34 sec; Cambridge 3:40.14 sec.
University Stone: Oxford 7:52.24 sec; Cambridge 8:00.41sec.
Official margin: Two and three-quarter lengths.

By Tim Koch

Statistics from Sean Gorvy and Rachel Quarrell

Photos by BigBlade