Monday, April 6, 2015

Women rowing into history

PIC via Sunday Times article on women's rowing Oxford Cambridge
Every now and then a ripple runs through women's sport and you can actually see change happening. Next Saturday is one of those days. 

In England the 183-year old men's rowing race between Oxford and Cambridge universities has taken on a cultural significance far beyond the actual sport. Not many people know the female students have their own race but on a shorter, and less public course. 

This year is different. Different because of money, money donated by a woman who asked one simple question. Why don't the women and men race on the same course, and on the same day? 

Reading bits in the English papers over the weekend, it seems Helena Morrissey of BNY Mellon had to sponsor the men's race to ensure parity (coughs) and then could get her way on the women's. She was already sponsoring gear and transport for both women's teams. 

Unfortunately the Oxford women sank last week, but I haven't seen anywhere they are cancelling. I'm sure the sinking fed into the stereotypes about women in sport and women in rowing. Quite a few sexist comments quoted in the articles anyhow, though it's hardly surprising considering they locked the women out of the course for so long.

If you can get hold of yesterday's Sunday Times, the magazine has powerful shots of both teams by Andrew Testa. It's behind a paywall online here.

And The Telegraph sent a journalist to join the Cambridge team with predictably disasterous results even though she just goes to the gym.  

This is already resonating beyond rowing. Clare Balding, racing presenter extraordinaire is desterting her usual post at the Grand National to commentate the women's race.

Speaking at the BNY Mellon Boat Races Weigh-In and Launch, she said: "There was a big decision to make. But there will never be another first women’s Boat Race on the Tideway. This will have a ripple effect all across society, business and sport.”

And on Balding's Twitter page later, she didn't have much time for criticism of that choice. She tartly (and rightly IMHO) pointed out: "@Kevdoolan73 and I can't believe you're bothered. But for the record, the Grand National doesn't need my help, women's sport does"

BBC1 will show the race live on Saturday at  16.50 and presumably on BBCiPlayer later.

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