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Boat Race 2024 season gets under way as Cambridge University Boat Club members mix with Oxford counterparts at Presidents’ Challenge in London





Tucked away just off London’s famous Regent Street, No 11 Cavendish Square was the setting for last week’s launch of the 2024 Boat Race campaign.

The annual Presidents’ Challenge saw both Cambridge and Oxford University Boat Clubs come together for an event that reignites one of sport’s most enduring rivalries.

Tradition dictates that the president of the previous year’s losing team challenges their counterpart from the triumphant opposition to once again do battle on the River Thames – and so it was Oxford offering up the invitations after Cambridge’s famous clean sweep of 2023.

The Boat Race LTD chair Siobhan Cassidy addresses the crowd. Picture: Keith Heppell
The Boat Race LTD chair Siobhan Cassidy addresses the crowd. Picture: Keith Heppell

Seb Benzecry and Jenna Armstrong accepted the requests posed by Louis Corrigan and Ella Stadler, and the focus very quickly turned towards preparations for Easter Saturday (March 30), when the two great institutions will meet in front of 250,000 people on the river bank.

Siobhan Cassidy, chair of The Boat Race Company who won a Blue for Cambridge in 1995 while at Homerton College, said: “It’s amazing that for people who watch rowing, The Boat Race might be their first touch point of the sport. It’s easy to understand – you have two boats and people who have nothing to do with Oxford or Cambridge will pick a colour.

“This fiercely contested ‘Battle of the Blues’ is watched by millions, and it’s that competitive spirit that drives each and every rower to strive and to keep learning.”

The Boat Race Challenge at 11 Cavendish Square, London, from left CUBC Men's President Sebastian Benzecry and Louis Corrigan Oxford Men's President. Picture: Keith Heppell
The Boat Race Challenge at 11 Cavendish Square, London, from left CUBC Men's President Sebastian Benzecry and Louis Corrigan Oxford Men's President. Picture: Keith Heppell
The Boat Race Challenege at 11 Cavendish Square, London. Picture; Keith Heppell
The Boat Race Challenege at 11 Cavendish Square, London. Picture; Keith Heppell

For Benzecry, he will be looking to lead Cambridge to what would be his third Boat Race victory after triumphs in 2021 and 2023. And the 26-year-old, who is pursuing a PhD in film and screen studies at Jesus College, believes the current crop are in the best shape for the time of year that he has ever seen.

He said: “This is my fourth year on the team and I’ve seen several different iterations of it. I’ve grown and developed as an athlete and it’s been the most amazing experience being part of it. To be the head of it now is a fantastic opportunity and I’m just excited to try to add that legacy and culture.

“Things are moving really well. We’ve got some different focuses this year. Our coach Rob (Baker) is a big believer in not letting things stagnate. We have a really physically strong group of people this year that can do things that I don’t think we could necessarily do last year.

“We’re approaching things in a slightly different way and we’re moving really, really well. For this time of year it’s the fastest that I’ve seen a Cambridge squad, so that’s really exciting.”

The presidents of the two women’s teams – Jenna Armstrong (Cambridge) and Ella Stadler (Oxford). Picture: Keith Heppell
The presidents of the two women’s teams – Jenna Armstrong (Cambridge) and Ella Stadler (Oxford). Picture: Keith Heppell

Meanwhile, the challenge for Armstrong will be to oversee a seventh straight victory for Cambridge’s women’s crew.

The American, who is studying mitochondrial function in placentas for her postgraduate degree in physiology at Jesus College, said: “We’re really building and developing. It’s amazing to see how our athletes have been developing with the programme.

“The numbers we’ve been producing out on the water have been really promising so I feel quite good with the girls and the athletes that we have.”



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