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Caian to cox light blue crew in Boat Race

  • 19 March 2019

The Cambridge and Oxford crews have been announced for the upcoming Varsity Boat Race on 7 April 2019, where Cambridge and Oxford will go head-to-head on a 4-mile course between Putney and Mortlake on the River Thames.

Matthew Holland, a third year Natural Sciences student at Gonville & Caius College will cox the Men’s Light Blue crew. Here, he talks about maintaining a balance between rowing and his studies, shares his favourite thing about Caius and reveals his pre-race good luck routine (hint: we may be in for some melodious coxing).


What originally got you into rowing? 

I was originally scouted in my first year at school by the Head of Rowing because I was short, loud and reasonably outgoing, and the next week I was sat in an 8! I rowed for five years at school and then coxed the winning Cambridge women’s Blue Boat in my first year at Caius. I was very fortunate to have excellent coaches at school who continually pushed me to improve and get better.


How do you balance rowing with your studies?

I have to be very disciplined with my timetabling, which I think makes me work better by allocating a specific slot of time to do a piece of work and not allowing myself to get distracted. I am at the Boathouse for the best part of 7 hours a day, which leaves only a few waking hours to get all my academic work done. By being very regimented and making sure I never get behind, I stay on top of things, but it is difficult to find the time for everything.


Why do you think sport and other non-academic activities are important? 

They teach you so much about yourself that you cannot learn in a lecture theatre or a laboratory. By being part of the University Rowing Team, and the Caius Choir, I have learnt so much about working in a team, and how to get the best out of yourself and those around you. Rowing has taught me, more than anything else, how to keep a clear head and think straight under pressure. In a race, situations develop very quickly and it is my job as the cox to decide how to manage the situation such that my crew comes out of it in front. This involves making decisions in a matter of seconds, and is something that you cannot learn from a textbook.


What do you love most about Caius? 

The college is absolutely beautiful and it is hard to pinpoint a favourite part, but I think it is the friendly atmosphere that distinguishes Caius from anywhere else. Everyone knows each other and there is always a chatty and welcoming ambience about the College, be it in the bar, Hall or the library that makes you feel very at home and at ease. I am also a massive fan of the purple and blue velvet gown!


Do you have any good luck charms or routines for the race?

I always check every nut and bolt on the boat twice over, to make sure nothing can go wrong during the race. I will also sing to myself before we boat, as it calms me down and warms up my voice for the race. When I’m on the start line I always allow myself a few seconds to just look around and take in the atmosphere, it’s a very special moment just before the race starts and it is important not to miss the opportunity to soak it up.


What will training consist of as the race draws closer? 

Most of our training throughout the year has consisted of long, low intensity paddling to build up a strong base of physiological fitness, but as we get into these last few weeks the rows become much shorter and more intense as we look to fine-tune our racing rhythm. As we get towards the business end, these sessions are very good fun, and it’s very exciting for me to see how our racing speed develops.


What are your thoughts about the race?

I am fortunate to be part of a strong crew with a lot of racing experience, and our stand-out strength is that we are good racers. Nothing in the Boat Race is easy, and we will need to row very well and race very hard if we want to win, but I definitely think that the crew has the potential to win. If we are calm and clinical in the way we race then I think we will put ourselves in a very strong position.


Do you have any tips for supporters who will be along the Thames

Make some noise!! We can hear everything as we go down the course and it means so much to us that people have come down to wish us well.



We wish Matthew and all the Cambridge crews the very best for the Boat Races.



(Photograph: AllMarkOne)

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