Exclusive: Cambridge and Oxford Share Their Mindsets Ahead of the Boat Race 2024

With The Gemini Boat Race in 2024 fast approaching, Oxford and Cambridge boat clubs representatives share their worries, goals, and mindsets ahead of the annual event.

Neil Goulding
Neil Goulding

Last Updated: 2024-03-25

Louis Hobbs

5 minutes read

The Oxford-Cambridge race

The Gemini Boat Race is one of the bedrocks of British culture.

Tradition often provides a fitting backdrop for some of sport’s most memorable moments.

And there’s arguably nothing more quintessentially British than Oxford and Cambridge battling it out for coveted collegiate university bragging rights on the River Thames.

A Championship Course of just over four miles (374 yards to be exact) from Putney to Mortlake will once again undoubtedly see this year’s title-hungry crews push themselves to breaking point in their respective quests to reign victorious.

Over 250,000 spectators are expected to line the banks of the Tideway next Saturday (30th March) in what will be the 169th edition of the Men’s race, followed by the 78th instalment of the Women’s race.

BBC coverage of the annual 6.8km water sprint also guarantees wide appeal, with the pressure on Cambridge to try and defend both of their titles – and Oxford gunning for revenge against their arch-rivals.

Image Credits: Gemini The Boat Race

Image Credits: Gemini The Boat Race

“It’s Definitely Time We Turned the Tide”

Oxford president Ella Stadler and her crew have been training tirelessly for months in preparation for the race.

And the 23-year-old is determined for her team to make their own history, especially with Cambridge having won the women’s race for the past six seasons in a row.

There was no race in 2020 because of the coronavirus, but Oxford last won the race in 2016 and are gunning to avenge those years of disappointment.

“It’s definitely time we turned the tide,” said Stadler, who has balanced studying for a postgraduate course in MPhil History of Science, Medicine and Technology with roughly 40 hours of training every week.”

“They’ll [Cambridge] be coming into the race expecting to win, but we’re here wanting a change and expecting a change.”

“Cambridge are an incredibly successful boat club, they’ve put out a lot of winning boats in the last few years and they’ll have trained incredibly hard, I’d be a fool to think otherwise.”

“However, that doesn’t reflect the quality Oxford have managed to put out in recent years.”

Stadler was in the losing Blue boat last year and, understandably, she doesn’t want to experience the bitter taste of defeat again.

“The vibes this year are really good, everyone has a lot of confidence in themselves and in each other,” added Stadler.

“As a group, athletes and coaches we’ve cultivated something really special, it’s an exciting time to be at Oxford.”

“We’re really excited to show the world and the British public the hard work we’ve put in behind the scenes.”

The official crew announcements for both the men's and women’s teams were made earlier this month at Battersea Power Station, with eight lucky rowers and a cox selected to see if they can steer their respective universities to victory.

quote icon

But what’s cruel about the Boat Race is that you only remember who wins.

Ella Stadler

Image Credits: The Boat Race (

Image Credits: The Boat Race (

Craving Another Sensation of Victory

Cambridge president Jenna Armstrong tasted success last season in an unprecedented clean sweep of the honours – and she’s hungry to repeat the trick this time around.

“It [winning] definitely still gives me goosebumps,” revealed Jenna Armstrong, as she reflects on last year’s memorable win.”

“It was such an incredible feeling, it couldn’t have been a better day for the university.”

“I don’t think there’s any secret, but our coaches have to take a lot of credit for getting the best out of us.”

“We really have a system in place which we trust and have confidence in, but it’s also about believing in ability.”

American-born Armstrong, 30, has been balancing her Physiology postgraduate studies with energy-sapping training sessions in a bid to help guide Cambridge to a seventh successive crown.

“I’m really proud of the group I’ve got this year and what they’ve done through this year,” added Jenna Armstrong, the Cambridge president.

“The whole world sees the outcome on the day, but I think for me it’s so much more than that.”

“I’ve been working with this group of girls for nine months and rowing some of these girls for years.”

“There’s a real healthy rivalry between the two universities, but we’d love to win more than anything. It would mean so much.”

The men’s race started way back in 1829 and the overall standings are 86-81 in Cambridge’s favour and by 47-30 in the women’s race.

Staying Driven Amidst Intense Training

Will Denegri, the Oxford men’s cox, is racing in the Blue boat for the first time and is well aware of the weight of expectation to try and win back the title they lost by only one and one-third of length last year.

“It’s been intense and demanding training for the race, but at the same time it’s really fulfilling when you get things right,” said Denegri, 23, who is studying for a Bachelor of Civil Law degree.

“Confidence levels are high, but that definitely doesn’t come with any complacency.”

“We’re not kidding ourselves about the scale of the challenge, but at the same time, that’s what’s driving us to win.”

“This race is a whole different beast to any other race, it does make you nervous and make you want to do something differently. But the way we have to deal with that is to stick to our guns and focus on what we can control. It’s absolute tunnel vision.”

Image Credits: The Boat Race (

Image Credits: The Boat Race (

Direly Wishing to Avoid Defeat

Cambridge rower Luca Ferraro has been in the Blue boat for the last two seasons, and so tasted success and defeat.

A Classics undergraduate, the 21-year-old admitted: “Winning last year was partly writing the wrongs of the previous year and getting a bit of revenge.”

“It really is a magical feeling and the culmination of so much hard work. Losing [in 2022] was really tough, it’s one of the worst feelings I’ve ever experienced.”

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But experiencing winning certainly gives you fuel to keep going.

Luca Ferraro

“We’re super aware they [Oxford] will be very hungry for a win, but we’re ready for the challenge.”

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Neil Goulding
Neil GouldingSenior Sports Reporter

Neil has been a journalist for longer than he'd care to remember, having written for national newspapers and respected publications for over 25 years. For the last three years he has worked freelance for BBC Sport, working on the production desk as a sub-editor and also as a writer, covering a whole range of sports.