Perception is everything. Anyone who looked at the weather forecast could see it was going to be rough out there. The Wednesday before our race our coach, Christine Wilson, said that whatever the weather, it would be ‘perfect Boat Race conditions’. When the waves were filling our boat to the brim, we didn’t panic. We already knew these were our perfect boat race conditions. The game was on, the tone was set and there was a job to be done. We were prepared for every eventuality, so no matter what was happening around us we knew that the objective was the same: to catch the boat, push the boat, and generate optimum hull speed.
The story of our victory is a fairly simple one. Our processes were connected length, ratio and rhythm. Within that framework there was acceleration. These things came together to create boat speed. Irrelevant of the conditions, the crowds, or the perceived pressures, our holistic focus was the same; deliver the processes. The wind was overpowering the stream, and the pumps couldn’t deal with the amount of water coming onboard, so steering to calmer water was an easy decision. The hard work came from the team as a whole.
“Our crew mascot Buzz had been cable tied into the boat so he could ride with us for the race.”
The eight oarswomen in front of me pushed themselves to both mental and physical exhaustion every stroke to ensure we achieved our goal of moving the hull as fast as possible. After steering, my job was to keep the rowers present, tuned into the boat and their blades managed.
Being thrown in at the end was eventful for two reasons. It is freezing cold and the river water is quite dirty. I am also not the best swimmer, so what the cameras did not show was my crew fishing me back out of the Thames when they remembered swimming wasn’t my strong suit. Our crew mascot Buzz had been cable tied into the boat so he could ride with us for the race. Buzz, a small cuddly penguin, was a symbol of the challenges we had faced and overcome throughout the year, after we found him in a dingy puddle on a tough day of training camp.
Oxford won the 2016 women’s Boat Race by twenty-four lengths. Looking back on the race my clearest memories are of the team. The hours of preparation and cumulative efforts made by the athletes and practitioners are what made that margin possible. No one thing won the race, but the combined effort put the result in place. What you do as a team is important. We win together and we lose together. There is a legacy that has been built and continues to grow. Those that have come before us, those there now, and those to come – that’s who you’re working for. I specifically chose to work with the women’s boat club at Oxford because I was inspired by the remarkable squad of women at that time. Their tenacity and integrity were values I was drawn to, and the programme is something that I am proud to have been a part of.