The dawn of Saturday 28th June 2015 saw the Oxford and Cambridge teams line up on the Henley regatta course for the varsity open water swimming matches. The student varsity match was first held in 2014 and proved so popular that the organisers decided to add an alumni match as well this year.
The matches were held as part of the Henley Classic event. This is a lovely race which was been going for many years now and one that Team Mermaids did in 2011. It is always held at dawn (4.30am!) on the Sunday before Henley Regatta starts on Wednesday. The swim is 2.1km upstream along the regatta course.
The format of the varsity and alumni match is that four ladies and four men compete for each university with the fastest three times for each sex counting towards the overall result. The swim operates on channel swim rules i.e. skins! Although this wasn’t made clear to all the alumni swimmers in advance, so as it was the first year some people were allowed to wear wetsuits (but won’t be next year!!).
Kate and I (Katie) swam for the Cambridge alumni team. I would like to say that it was very competitive to be selected for the team but in reality pretty much anyone who wanted to swim was welcome! The student match set off at 5.45am with the alumni match setting off a few minutes later with an altogether much more sportive atmosphere to it! Marisa and Katia started off strong for Oxford with Jo and Rachel for Cambridge hot on their heels. Jo ended up winning the race, and Kate and I managed to come in fifth and sixth ahead of the final two Oxford girls (Anna and Katie)
I really enjoyed the race even though towards the end if felt like the finish was never going to arrive. Oxford were victorious in the men’s and women’s student match and the men’s alumni match – well done Oxford. Somehow though Cambridge managed to win our women’s alumni race – all down to Jo and Rachel I think! Can’t wait for next year.