Saturday 5th April 2003, Putney
On Friday afternoon at 2:34pm, during a warm-up burst, Cambridge crashed headlong into the Harbour Master's vessel, Westbourne, outside Chas Newens' headquarters beside the moored boats at Putney.
Now, eighteen hours later, it has been confirmed that bowman Wayne Pommen, whose left wrist was injured in the collision, has in fact suffered a fracture, and will not be able to row. Pommen, who is registered for a one-year MPhil in International Relations at Pembroke College, will be devastated: this was his one shot at the race.
To add to the drama, the Goldie man promoted will, it has been confirmed by Robin Williams, be Ben Smith. Until today he was stroke of the reserves, and younger brother of Matt Smith. This puts two pairs of brothers on opposite sides in the first time ever, and will create a media frenzy. Oxford's Dave Livingston and his elder brother James at Cambridge have already been in the centre of the media spotlight, and to add a frisson, both the Smiths and Livingstons went to Hampton School, and have regularly rowed together.
The last time that someone was promoted for medical reasons was 1979, when the Cambridge stroke John Woodhouse went down with appendicitis the night before the race, and the Light Blues, formerly favourites, went on to lose.
This year the switch will be less of a problem for the boat, since Pommen was rowing at bow, and they will hope Smith can fit in without trouble. Smith will go in as a straight replacement, directly into the bow seat. Spare Andy Smith (no relation) has joined the reserves, who needed to be reshuffled after losing strokeman Ben.
Cambridge's 10:00 am outing was postponed to 1:30 today, although Goldie paddled just before, and came off the water looking very confident. They rowed with the lineup below, and although coach Donald Legget said he was looking at a possible 3/7 switch, felt it was more likely they had the best combination now:
Bow John Alexander Girton2 Ewan Robson St. John's3 Andy Smith# Gonville & Caius #prev. Goldie4 Dan Barry Gonville & Caius5 Chris Le Neve Foster St. Catharine's6 Steffen Buschbacher St. Catharine's7 Andrew Shannon St. Edmund'sStroke Nate Kirk St. Edmund'sCox Ellie Griggs* Robinson *prev. Blue
Cambridge paddled to settle their new combination, trying out a few mid-pace bursts and one up to 40, although they waited until their second outing to give standing starts a try.
Later, Robin Williams, Wayne Pommen and Ben Smith were interviewed briefly. Smith said he hadn't had a chance to think about the history-making four brothers, or to spend much time concentrating on anything other than fitting into the Blue Boat. He was very shocked and sorry for Wayne, who now loses his chance to gain a Blue, and sees his own job as just fitting in and following what the boat ahead are doing.
Pommen seemed to have come to terms with his bad luck, and is now trying to be as supportive as possible to Smith and the rest of the crew. Williams, of course, is trying to keep things as normal as possible. Smith fitted well into the crew, and the question now is how much this disaster will spur the Cambridge boat on, or whether they will let it get to them.
Copyright Rachel Quarrell for the Rowing Service, 2003.