Cambridge Coach Steve Trapmore believes that the unique nature of the Boat Race means it is not always the fastest crew that wins – and he’s wary of his team coming unstuck on Sunday. Trapmore, who has won only one of his six Boat Races as coach of the Cambridge men’s squad, says that the unpredictability of the event makes for difficult and challenging racing. “I don’t believe in favourites and underdogs,” the 41 year old told the Times. “A crew can clash, make a mistake and lose the race despite being the fastest boat on paper.”
Trapmore’s tenure as head coach has been remarkable for the wrong reasons, having lost out to outstanding Oxford crews in 2013, 2014 and 2015 after claiming his only victory in contentious circumstances. The 2012 race was marred by a swimmer in the river and broken Oxford blades, leaving Cambridge to run out as clear, albeit tainted, winners.
Trapmore is facing increasing pressure in light of this, and knows that his Cambridge crew must beat an Oxford boat lacking in international pedigree. So what does the former Olympian need to do to buck the trend?
“People think we have to produce something special on race day to win,” he explained. “I don’t think that’s true. The preparation is all done by that stage and that’s the mistake a lot of people make – athletes think you go out to race and have to produce something amazing and new. That’s where crews fall down.”
With four returners from last year’s defeat, including American President Henry Hoffstot and coxswain Ian Middleton, Trapmore has plenty of experience to call upon – a factor he believes is crucial for psychological preparation. “If you know you can push yourself beyond what you thought you could do, what’s to stop you doing it again?” he added.
His crew will leave the Putney boathouses at around 3:15pm on Sunday afternoon, surrounded by thousands of supporters. It is an impossible scenario to prepare for, yet it is Trapmore’s job to do just this. “Often I tell them to just forget the crowds and the drama – you’re still racing a race against another crew” he explained.
Should Trapmore lose again on Sunday, despite the stature and racing history of his crew, it may throw his future as head coach into doubt. It has become a must-win scenario and he must hope that, on this occasion, the form book prevails.