Would you like crab with that?
Oh dear. It's happened to every rower at some point or other, but not usually in front of an enthusiastic world-wide TV audience. So you just have to feel sorry for Oxford rower Rebecca Esselstein who managed to 'catch a crab' with her first stroke in this year's (2017) Women's Oxford v Cambridge Boat Race.
But was does 'catching a crab' mean? This lovely term means getting your oar caught in the water due to getting either the angle of entry wrong, or the depth too low. It only takes a second or momentary lapse of concentration for this to happen and can sometimes be quickly corrected and recovered, or in the worse cases even flip the rower out of the boat!
Check out the video below. At around 11 seconds you can see how quickly this can lead to a quick exit from the boat. Then at around 60 seconds you can see the whole embarrassing moment played out in slow motion as the unfortunate rower gets an early bath.
While that would be bad enough, spare a thought for Rebecca from the Oxford crew. She and the crew would have trained for months for the historic race between Oxford and Cambridge universities. First held in 1829, the men's race became and annually event in 1856 and continues to this day with only two breaks during the two world wars.
The race over 4.2 miles on the River Thames has been remarkably even between the men and stands at Cambridge 82 wins against Oxford's 80.
The first women's race was in 1927 and became an annual event in 1936 and while Cambridge have a bigger lead of 42 to 30 over Oxford, they couldn't have expected this years race to be quite so easy. Unfortunately for Oxford it was effectively all over with the very first stroke as Rachel caught the rower's unwanted clawed creature straight from the blocks to see it drawn down and held underwater by the force of the boat trying to move forward. Even though they recovered quickly, Cambridge were already out of sight in those vital seconds.
Like all sporting events, you have to take the highs and lows and deal with them all the same. Oxford Head Coach, Ali Williams reflected on the race saying
“Obviously it was quite disappointing. One of the girls caught a very big crab on the first stroke out of the start.It’s not what we prepare for and it just took them too long to get it back together. Once they got going I thought they had a great row and I think it was a very gallant effort to race the way they did."
Well you have to keep things in perspective - and there's always another day!
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Roy Palmer is an athletics coach, teacher of The Alexander Technique and a rowing fanatic.