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Boat Race 2023: Cambridge University Boat Club athlete Brett Taylor proud to be representing one of the many nations at this year’s event

The Gemini Boat Race may be confined to a 4.2-mile stretch of the River Thames, yet it truly is a worldwide event.

Last year, it was said that people from more than 200 countries tuned in to the watch the action unfold on the Tideway.

It is expected to be a similar figure this time around when Cambridge and Oxford renew one of sport’s most famous rivalries in London on Sunday, March 26.

Brett Taylor is looking forward to his first Boat Race experience. Picture: Keith Heppell
Brett Taylor is looking forward to his first Boat Race experience. Picture: Keith Heppell

And there is also set to be plenty of international representation inside both boats with nine different nationalities primed and ready to do battle on race day.

It is no surprise to see the flags of Great Britain, the United States of America, New Zealand and Australia being flown, but Chinese Taipei – commonly known as Taiwan – is far from commonplace at the Boat Race.

However, the Asian country, which is located in the Pacific Ocean, will be represented for the first time thanks to Brett Taylor, who has the number two seat in the Cambridge men’s squad.

Brett Taylor, left, started rowing at Rob Roy Boat Club. Picture: Keith Heppell
Brett Taylor, left, started rowing at Rob Roy Boat Club. Picture: Keith Heppell

Raised in Cambridge, the former Perse School pupil had initially plotted to represent Britain. But when that did not go to plan, he opted instead to race in the colours of his mother’s birthplace, having previously turned out for them in his youth.

“We mostly wanted to go down the Great Britain route originally because we felt it might help to push me on further,” said Taylor, who is studying pharmacology as part of his medical degree at Queens’.

“But in the end it didn’t really align with how we wanted to go about things. We wanted the route to be set in concrete much earlier than Great Britain normally sets their crews.

“I wanted to plan ahead and have a clear path. Before then I’d already done some stuff with Taipei. I knew the people there and I had experienced the privilege of rowing with them.

“It’s important to me. I’m not too in touch with my Taiwanese side so it feels nice to do something for that. To row in Asia was and is an amazing experience.”

Closer to home, Cambridge-based Rob Roy Boat Club will also be fixated on Taylor and the Cambridge boat.

He started rowing with the club, which was established in 1880, more than 12 years ago and he is aware of what his participation in the Boat Race will mean to them.

Taylor said: “(The Boat Race call-up) means a lot, especially for the club I came from.

“They taught me how to scull and in essence they taught me how to sweep that way as well. They also introduced me to the racing experience from a young age. I’ve been doing this for a long time and it all started there.

“My dad had rowed when he was younger and I just wanted to give it a go. Rob Roy have been really great for me.”

As for the race itself, Cambridge’s lead coach Rob Baker recently claimed that there was not much to separate to the two men’s crews.

And whatever the result, Taylor has insisted preparation has been full proof.

“It’s pretty cool to be here. I didn’t trial initially, I’m in my third year now. Coming from a college environment, it is a big step up and it’s definitely more of the level that I wanted from rowing at Cambridge in general,” he said.

“The atmosphere has been great for me and it’s really helped me to get the best out of myself. And I feel like I can get some more out as well. Everyone here has the same sorts of goals and objectives. There is a great level of respect for each other.

“We all hold ourselves to high standards. There is still joking and we all get on, but once we’re in the boat or on the erg, we’re very focused on the work.

“Everyone is becoming more aware the race is coming up and that crews are set. All I can do is the best I can to help make the boat go as fast as it can.”

This year’s race will actually have double significance for Rob Roy, with Taylor joined by another club alumna in Sarah Marshall, who will be in the Oxford women’s boat. Like Taylor, Marshall is a former Perse School pupil that also attended Queen Edith Primary School before moving to Oxford in 2021 to study BA history and economics at Jesus College.

The club’s director of junior rowing Jo Burch – herself a Cambridge rowing Blue – said: “We could not be more proud of these two former juniors.

“Both were superb role models when they were with us. We were thrilled when both achieved Oxbridge places, and we hoped that they would continue their rowing at university.

“Now to be looking forward to seeing both of them in the iconic Boat Races this year is very exciting for us as their former coaches and for the current members of the junior squad.

“We have another pair of juniors in the Rob Roy squad who have been offered places at Oxford and Cambridge next year – they also have their hearts set on racing the Boat Race course.

“The achievements of Sarah and Brett will give them huge confidence that with hard work and dedication, it can be done.”

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