Sophie Shapter brings multi-skills to the Cambridge University's coxes seat for the Boat Race
Bidding to steer a smooth Tideway course for the Light Blues
The role of getting into the heads of the oarswomen and being the voice of the coach amid the din of the Thames on Women’s Boat Race day is the job of the cox.
The calming influence or the firebrand that stokes the crew into action, it is such an integral role on the challenging Tideway course that demands patience, communication and drive.
Therefore, considering her studies, Sophie Shapter is the ideal candidate to be steering the Cambridge Blue boat.
The 23-year-old is a psychology and education student at St Catharine’s College, and the skills and traits of her subject may help to stand her in good stead on Saturday.
“You have to think about what makes people tick in the boat and what’s going to make them motivated and push harder,” said Shapter.
“There is also the social aspect as you’ve got to make sure everyone is getting on and helping each other communicate.
“We’ve got on really well, especially over camp when we went away for seven days solid; living in each other’s pockets you get to know everyone so well.
“You get that bonding between the squads. You get to know who likes to be quiet before races, who likes to chat or who in the boat is going to pipe up and say ‘I think this’.
“There are people who are more positive, there are people who are more negative, so you get to know who is going to fill those roles and where those comments may come from.
“So you definitely get to know and prepare yourself for what someone might say.
“I think for me, one of the biggest things I have learnt through the psychology is that someone might react in a way that might not necessarily represent their personality.
“It might be because they are having a bad day, or there are things that are going on behind the scenes that you might not know about.
“So sometimes I’m quite aware that you need to take a step back and attribute it to an external thing rather than the person. I think that is definitely something that I have taken from the studies I have done.”
Further, if you add the psychology with Shapter’s experience of the Tideway, you could hardly want for more from a Boat Race cox.
She started at Latymer Upper School for two years but they switched to sculling so Shapter went down the river to Thames Rowing Club, as cox of the men’s senior squad competing in the Head of the River and Henley Regatta.
“I got a lot of Tideway experience from that,” she said, having also coached with London Youth Rowing.
“I joined Tideway Scullers with the women’s squad so I have been around everywhere, and if anyone ever needs any help, like a cox for training or racing, I’m there.
“I was rent a cox for a few years which was fun.”
It is not just coxing for Shapter though, she has many strings to her bow.
She plays football for the university, only missing out on the reserves’ Varsity Match because of rowing commitments; won the Sliver SRA Award for Best Speech Programming in 2017 and the silver community radio award for best podcast; and has been producing a podcast of the season at CUWBC.
“I thought it was a really good opportunity to start a podcast about the Boat Race journey,” she said.
“On the day, you see all the BBC footage, the training, how hard it all is, but you don’t really see the other side to it and how much fun we have.
“It’s not all about the Boat Race, we have loads of different races so I wanted to give a little insight into what actually happens here throughout the year rather than this one big media splash in the week leading up to and on the day.”
So if Cambridge secure victory on Saturday, it should make one great final podcast from Shapter for the season.