Boat Race 2017: Tim Tracey thrives in a life on the water at Cambridge University
American oarsman is on the crest of a wave
A life on the water seems to have been a long-time calling for Tim Tracey.
Taking up rowing at university does not suggest that is the case, until you realise that the higher education institute where the 22-year-old learned the sport was the US Naval Academy in Maryland.
Having floated around a variety of different disciplines as a schoolboy, with the lure of team sports appealing, it was in Annapolis that Tracey first picked up an oar and finally found his niche.
“They have a period during the summer where there is a spell during the day where you have to go and participate in some sort of athletic activity,” said Tracey, who is from Nebraska.
“I found out about rowing as they sent out an email saying if you’re interested you should come to Hubbard Hall and we will teach you how to row a barge.
“So, I go from rowing these 16-oar barges that no matter how hard you pull you are going really slow and then eventually you get to the Fall when they put you into the old shells and you think this is really cool. And then you get into a newer boat and you think this is awesome.
“My whole first year was just making leaps and bounds in terms of development but it all just started with getting that email saying if you’re interested come on out and we’ll teach you how to row.
“It was a bit later in life which I think in a lot of ways has kept my outlook on rowing fresh. I feel like I’m still making a lot of development in terms of the technique and how I can apply myself to be more effective, both individually and within that team structure.”
Part of that development helped him earn a call-up to represent America – at the Under-23 World Rowing Championships in Plovdiv in 2015 – at the second time of asking.
And now the Boat Race course offers Tracey a different proposition again, from the Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships and national squad racing he had been used to tackling.
“That’s all about adrenaline, it’s all about getting hyped for this five minutes and whatever seconds for this very intense, flat-out racing and there is something magical about that,” he said. “Sometimes I do miss it because it is a lot of fun to do.
“The Boat Race, on the other hand, is an entirely different animal. Over three times as long, the conditions changing from head winds to cross winds, you have the tide, so many variables.
“So I think it’s a bit more cerebral in some ways. You have to be thinking a bit more, you have to be more nailed in on your rhythm.
“In a 2km race, you can get away with hacking at it a little bit and just powering your way down the course – not so much the case with something like the Boat Race.
“It is unique and one of the things that makes it great is there is more thinking and planning, and really having to be disciplined with your approach in order to be successful.”
So coming to study for an MPhil in energy technologies at Queens’ College has been a perfect fit for Tracey.
“I think being at Cambridge has been really good for me,” he said. “It’s been awesome being able to come to an institution that’s academically revered and a programme within the rowing community that’s on an equal footing.
“At university, I got down the mental toughness in being able to pull ergs and to spend long hours on the water.
“And here it’s been good to further develop the technical aspects and be able to take more time to just focus on the catch, focus on these little parts of the stroke that are so important.”
The Cancer Research UK Boat Races are on Sunday, with the women’s race at 4.35pm and the men’s race at 5.35pm.