The Gemini Boat Race may be limited to a 4.2-mile stretch of the River Thames, yet it truly is a world-class event.
In the past year, people from more than 200 countries have reportedly tuned in to watch the events unfold on Tideway.
A similar number is expected this time when Cambridge and Oxford renew one of sport’s most famous rivalries in London on Sunday, March 26.
There is also set to be plenty of international representation in both boats with nine different nationalities primed and ready to do battle on race day.
It’s not surprising to see the flags of Great Britain, the USA, New Zealand and Australia flying in the air, but Chinese Taipei – better known as Taiwan – is a far cry from the regatta.
However, the Asian nation, which is located in the Pacific Ocean, will be represented for the first time thanks to Brett Taylor, who is ranked second in the Cambridge men’s team.
Growing up in Cambridge, the former Perse schoolboy had initially plotted to represent Britain. But when it did not go to plan, he chose instead to race in his mother’s hometown colours, having previously attended them in his youth.
“We mostly wanted to go on the Great Britain route originally because we felt it might help move me forward,” said Taylor, who is studying pharmacology as part of his medical degree at Queen’s.
But in the end, it didn’t really align with the way we wanted to do things. We wanted to concrete the course much earlier than Great Britain usually sets its crew.
“I wanted to plan ahead and have a clear path. Before that, I had already done some things with Taipei. I knew the people there and had experienced the privilege of kayaking with them.
“It’s important to me. I’m not in touch with my Taiwanese side so it’s good that I can do something about it. Kayaking in Asia was and still is a great experience.”
Closer to home, the Cambridge-based Rob Roy Boat Club will also focus on the Taylor and Cambridge boat.
He started rowing with the club, founded in 1880, more than 12 years ago knowing what his participation in the Regatta would mean to them.
Taylor said: “(Calling the Regatta) means a lot, especially to the club I come from.
“They taught me how to row and in essence they taught me how to sweep that way too. They also introduced me to the racing experience from a young age. I’ve been doing this for a long time and it all started there.
“My dad used to row when he was younger and I just wanted to give him a try. Rob Roy was really cool to me.”
As for the race itself, Cambridge head coach Rob Baker recently claimed there wasn’t much to separate him from the two-man crew.
Whatever the outcome, Taylor insisted the setup was complete proof.
“It’s great to be here. I haven’t tried at first, I’m in my third year now. Coming from a university environment, it’s a big step up and it’s definitely more than the level I wanted from rowing at Cambridge in general,” he said.
“The atmosphere has been great for me and it has really helped me get the best out of myself. And I feel like I can get more too. Everyone here has the same goals and objectives. There is a great level of respect for each other.
“We all hold ourselves to high standards. There’s still banter and we all keep going, but once we’re in the boat or on the erg, we’re very focused on work.
“Everyone is becoming more aware that the race is coming and the crews are ready. All I can do is do the best I can to help get the boat going as fast as it can.”
This year’s race will have double significance for Rob Roy, as Taylor is joined by another Club graduate in Sarah Marshall, who will be in the Oxford Women’s boat. Like Taylor, Marshall is a former pupil of The Perse School who also attended Queen Edith Primary School before moving to Oxford in 2021 to study an BA in History and Economics at Jesus College.
Jo Burch, the club’s Junior Rowing Club Manager – herself from the Cambridge Blue Rowing Team, said: “We couldn’t be prouder of these two former juniors.
“They were both wonderful role models when they were with us. We were thrilled when they both secured places at Oxbridge, and hoped they would continue rowing at university.
“Now we are looking forward to seeing both of them in the famous regattas this year, which is very exciting for us ex-coaches and for the current junior team members.
“We have another pair of Rob Roy juniors who have been offered places at Oxford and Cambridge next year – they also have their hearts set on Boat Racecourse racing.
“Sarah and Brett’s accomplishments will give them great confidence that with hard work and dedication, this can be achieved.”
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