9 April 1999

PULLINGFORLIGHTBLUES

Farmers daughter Rebecca

Lewis is making quite a

splash at university.

Tessa Gates talked to the

Cambridge blue with a

winning streak

WHEN it comes to the Oxford v Cambridge boat race, it is the men who get the most publicity but the womens race, staged a week earlier, is just as competitively fought.

The womens race is rowed over 2km on the Thames at Henley – and the crews produce a 6.5 minute explosion of energy honed by months of training. "It is basically an international course," says Rebecca Lewis who competed in the Cambridge boat for the first time this year. "We dont compete with the men because we are not big enough or strong enough and their course is fast tidal water. It is very difficult and they row for about 18 minutes.

Twenty-one year old Rebecca is a dairy farmers daughter and home is Park Farm, Crewe Green, Cheshire. Now in her third year at Fitzwilliam College, studying natural sciences and psychology, Rebecca is an accomplished sportswoman having represented Great Britain in the junior heptathlon and long jump. She has two blues for athletics (97 and 98) and she holds the record for the number of events won in a varsity athletics match – five events. She took up rowing at Cambridge.

"It is something different and is very much the thing to do at Cambridge. In my first year I rowed for my college – Fitzwilliam – and in my second year I was boat club captain. Then I did a development squad – you are kept down for a month after the university year has ended and row twice a day," explains Rebecca who then went through the trialling process, rowing in fours and eights.

"I was picked at Christmas and went to the rowing camp in Marlow and have trained twice a day up until now. It does mean giving up your social life as we need to be up by 5.30am each day to train but it is a fantastic experience to be with like-minded people. Everyone is very focused and really good fun," she says.

This years Cambridge crew was fresh to the race, while Oxford had some of last years blues competing, however Rebecca was confident that they would make it a Cambridge victory for the eighth consecutive year. In the event she was proved right with Cambridge winning in record time – 6min 1sec, a second faster than the previous best.