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Boat Race 2022: George Finlayson swaps Sydney and California for Ely with Cambridge University



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Cambridge University Boat Club's George Finlayson, right, shakes hands with Oxford counterpart Barnabe Delarze. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cambridge University Boat Club's George Finlayson, right, shakes hands with Oxford counterpart Barnabe Delarze. Picture: Keith Heppell

Swapping the sun-kissed climes of Sydney and California for the fenland setting f Ely has taken a bit of getting used to for George Finlayson.

A Sydneysider by birth and a student of the University of California in Berkeley, the 23-year-old knew exactly what he was letting himself in for when coming to study an Mphil in management at Peterhouse and trial with Cambridge University Boat Club.

But it did not make the transition to the climate any easier.

“It’s not necessarily a surprise, but the toughest adjustment, maybe, was the weather - the cold, and the short days,” said Finlayson.

“Coming from Sydney and California, where it’s usually sunshine and rainbows.

“Culturally, I think, England is maybe a bit more on par with Australia so it has been fairly easy to fit in and get along with the English environment.”

The route to the Light Blues No 3 seat for the Gemini Blue Race has been something that Finlayson has been able to take in his stride or, perhaps, more like his reach, having experienced a range of different programmes, having rowed with UCAL and competed for Australia at age group level.

“I’ve been with a mix of programmes and the Australian campaign I did in 2019 was quite full-on, training three times a day but obviously no academic commitments,” he said.

“At Berkeley it is probably less training, and the same amount of academic commitments so it’s been quite full-on to be training 12 times a week, and trying to juggle classes and group projects.

“I think Rob (Baker, Cambridge men’s chief coach) runs a really good programme and he tries to unify us on one pattern so we’re all rowing the same stroke. It has taken some adjusting to make those technical changes, but we’re getting there.”

Cambridge University Boat Club No 3 seat George Finlayson. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cambridge University Boat Club No 3 seat George Finlayson. Picture: Keith Heppell

Having done history as an undergraduate, it was the management course at the business school that appealed to Finlayson to switch to something a bit more practical, and he had been shown the way by a UCAL alumnus.

“A guy a few years above me, Natan Wegrzycki-Szymczyk, was at Berkeley and I saw that as a bit of a pathway over to the UK,” said Finlayson.

“I rowed with him in 2018. I sought his advice. He said it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“Scott Frandsen, my head coach at Berkeley, went to Oxford in the 2003 race.

“And Tim McLaren was my club coach at home, and he has a Cambridge connection. There was always a bit of chatter about the opportunity to go and race the Boat Race and study at Cambridge or Oxford so it was always something that has been at the back of my mind.

“It is a bit surreal to be here now, this close to the Boat Race.”

Read more

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Boat Race 2022: Meet the Cambridge University Boat Club women’s crew to face Oxford

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