Oxford's Boat Race winners make history

Congratulations to the Department of Engineering Science MSc(Res) students, James Cook (St Cross College) and Samuel O’Connor (Christ Church), who were part of this year’s men’s Boat Race team that won together with Oxford’s women’s team. Many congratulations also to Jennifer Ehr (Pembroke College), cox for the women's team. They were watched by thousands along the banks of the River Thames in London, and by millions more on television around the world.

Oxford won the men’s race for the sixth time in eight years on the same day as the Oxford women’s team won - a historic first staging of both the men’s and women’s races on the same course and day in the 186-year history of the men’s competition. The original race started in 1829, with the first women’s contest taking place in 1927.

2015 Boat Race
Photo: Hamish Roots

Jennifer Ehr (Pembroke College)
Jennifer Ehr (Pembroke College), Engineering Science Undergrauate)
"The atmosphere along the 6.8km Boat Race course and the subsequent joy shared by both the men’s and the women’s teams, after painting the River Thames thoroughly dark blue, was absolutely incredible. Being a part of the first women’s Boat Race on the Tideway was a humbling experience; so many women had worked towards the event and to benefit from their passion for equality was an immense privilege. Our crew had talked a lot about enjoying the occasion, and that we most certainly did!"
James Cook said: “Although the men’s team trained separately and followed different programmes, this year’s Boat Race brought parity to a pure sport. Having the women’s race on the same day definitely reached out to more people. It was meaningful to more people and helped the sport - it added a new pathway to the sport. It was brilliant!”

For Sam O’Connor (whose brother, James, is also a team member) it was his third Boat Race and an experience he’ll never forget. Sam said: “It was an amazing experience and to be able to share it with my brother was very special. We put in a lot of work for this throughout the year so to achieve this result was extremely satisfying”.

James added: “My Dad got me into rowing when I was 12 years old and since then I have rowed for my school and for University College London where I studied BA Mechanical Engineering. This was my first Boat Race but I felt incredibly well prepared - as a team we’ve done a lot of ‘visualisation’, where you close your eyes and dream what would happen - a bit like self-hypnosis. It felt like we had experienced the Boat Race ten times before we even got to the starting line.

Members of the Oxford men’s Boat Race team started their training in September 2014 and have trained twice a day for six days a week. James said: “Everyone in the Department has been very supportive, especially my Supervisor, Professor Clive Siviour, for allowing me to balance my MSc(Res) project and my rowing. Maybe having an engineering and scientific background can play to the strengths of rowing – being able to analyse performances. I do think that engineering, being quite objective and fact based, can help in not getting carried away with emotions… just what is needed on a momentous occasion like the Boat Race!”

James Cook’s MSc research focuses on “Optimising cellular structures for crash worthiness in helmet design.” Sam O’Connor’s MSc relates to “analysing fatigue crack behaviour and in particular plasticity induced fatigue crack closure during both constant and variable amplitude loading”. Both James and Sam are part of the Department of Engineering Science Solid Mechanics Group. Jennifer Ehr is a First Year undergraduate at the Department.

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