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Boat Race 2024: Cambridge University Boat Club men’s president Sebastian Benzecry looks ahead to Saturday’s renewal of Oxford rivalry

With four wins under their belts from the last five editions, Cambridge University Boat Club’s men’s crew could be forgiven for heading into Saturday’s Gemini Boat Race sticking very much to what they know.

This year’s president Sebastian Benzecry featured in two of those triumphs, including last year when Cambridge recorded an historic clean sweep over their Oxford counterparts.

Yet despite the domination of 12 months ago and the men’s recent positive run of form in the prestigious fixture on the River Thames, Benzecry has dismissed any notion of complacency.

Seb Benzecry, the CUBC men’s president. Picture: Keith Heppell
Seb Benzecry, the CUBC men’s president. Picture: Keith Heppell

He said: “There’s no room for complacency in the Boat Race. Every year both teams will bring in fresh talent and you can’t ever bank on success from the year before – it’s never a given.

“You have to keep adapting and finding new ways to push the speed on. We’ve had some really great years while I’ve been here, but we’ve learned things from every single one and nothing has been perfect.

“There were things last year that we did really well, but there were also things where we definitely were weaker.

Cambridge University Boat Club’s men’s crew. Picture: Paul Sanwell/OP Photographic
Cambridge University Boat Club’s men’s crew. Picture: Paul Sanwell/OP Photographic

“We weren’t outputting the amount of power that we should have been and so trying to rectify those mistakes and learn is huge for us.

“We have to keep stepping up because we know Oxford will have some really good guys this year – we can’t rest on our laurels.”

Overall, five of last year’s victorious crew – Noam Mouelle, Tom Lynch, Luca Ferraro, Matt Edge and Benzecry – will be on the start-line at the weekend as Cambridge bids to defend its crown.

But it has been a different type of preparation this time around. Telemetry is widely used throughout rowing in the present day as a way to provide each athlete with a range of technical data.

Yet, many crews will use the resource sparingly, whereas men’s head coach Rob Baker and Benzecry have leaned heavily on it.

Benzecry, who will sit in the bow seat this year, said: “We’ve been using telemetry data a lot more. That’s basically a read out of your gait in the boat, which tells you how much power you’re outputting every single stroke.

“We’ve been using that system quite consistently. It’s allowed people to really engage with what they’re doing on the water a lot more and get a lot more out of each session. They’ve been pushing themselves in ways I really have not seen before.

“We’ve got the squad firing on all cylinders and it’s put everyone in a good place physiologically and technically because the system really allows you to hone in on certain aspects of what you’re doing – how you’re length is looking, what your curve looks like, where you’re putting the power on through the stroke – things like that.

“You can see changes to that and you can experiment with it. Now, everyone is locked into something quite consistent across the whole squad and it’s been really good for us.

“We’ve used it all through my time here but it’s been much more sporadic and generally programmes I’ve been on that do use telemetry, do use it that way. There’s a kind of reluctance across the rowing world to go 100 per cent in on telemetry because so much of it is about feel and you want guys that can feel what’s happening in a boat without having to rely on the screen telling them.

“But the sport is moving on. One of our guys (Luca Ferraro) went away to the World Under-23 Championships last summer and won gold with the British eights. And in that eight, they used telemetry a lot and we took quite a lot of lessons from his experience.

“Rob (Baker) was really keen to try out that way of training.

“We tried it during the first few months of the year and it really worked for us. It’s continuing to work for us and it’s potentially a change that will continue going forward in the way Cambridge trains beyond this year.”

The proof – as they say – will very much be in pudding come race day as to the effectiveness of telemetry.

And what better way for Benzecry to sign off as a Boat Race winning president?

“Being part of this is such a privilege and it’s meaningful,” he said. “For a few months you’re part of such a pure thing and it’s all building up to that one race.

“It’s so historic and there’s a different group of guys every year - but always a really incredible group.

“It’s the team that keeps me coming back. I can’t imagine being at Cambridge and not being part of CUBC.

“It’s been such a meaningful part of my life and it’s such a privilege to be able to do another season.

“If this is my last year I want to get as much out of it as possible.

“It would be an amazing thing to win it as president, but really I’ve been trying to take every day as it comes.

“I’ve tried to enjoy the experience as much as possible. I know how quickly these seasons go and it’s been an amazing experience so far to be the president.

“I’ve tried not to think about results and instead enjoy the day to day process.”

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