As the official water partner of this year’s Oxford vs Cambridge Boat Races, GLACÉAU Smartwater pitted ‘Made in Chelsea’ reality TV stars Louise Thompson and Ryan Libbey head-to-head in a rowing challenge. We report on the result.

#SMARTROW

The Boat Race

The Boat Race is a long-standing British tradition, with the Oxford and Cambridge varsity crews battling it out on the Thames since 1829. This year’s race takes place on Sunday 2 April and both teams have been dedicated to training for glory since December last year.

GLACÉAU Smartwater #SMARTROW

To celebrate GLACÉAU Smartwater’s official water partnership with the legendary Boat Race, we created a head-to-head rowing challenge inspired by the race course and invited ‘Made in Chelsea’ stars Louise Thompson and Ryan Libbey each to captain a crew.

Fiercely competitive and fanatical about fitness, Louise and Ryan made the perfect on-board #SMARTROW ambassadors. They were joined on the day of the challenge by a team of novice rowers from the media and experienced athletes from Oxford and Cambridge at Fulham Reach Boat Club in London.

Louise says: “We’re both uber competitive. I think it’s good to challenge yourself. I always try to say yes to as much stuff as possible, I like to push myself out of my comfort zone.”

The challenge

The GLACÉAU Smartwater #SMARTROW challenge is a 6.8km rowing relay – the length of The Boat Race course – on two Concept2 ergonomic rowing machines positioned side by side. Louise and Ryan are captaining the teams of 6, competing head-to-head to be the fastest over the distance. 

“I’m here to show you what we do in the run up to The Boat Race.” – Isabell von Loga, President of the Oxford University Women’s Boat Club for 2016/17 

Isabell von Loga, President of the Oxford University Women’s Boat Club for the 2016/17 season, welcomes everyone to the club room at Fulham Reach Boat Club. She’ll be leading the Dark Blues out in Sunday’s race. Isabell introduces herself and the ergonomic rowing machine in the room, which has been a staple of the crews’ training:

“I’m here to show you what we do in the run up to The Boat Race. We train around twelve times a week, and depending on the British weather, between four and ten times a week we use the ergo. It’s a lovely beast that we love to hate.”

Mastering the technique

Experienced rowers from Oxford and Cambridge are on hand to provide top tips and technical advice to Louise and Ryan’s teams ahead of the challenge. Each team spends some time mastering both the rowing and changeover technique before the challenge starts.

“We were so lucky to have such an amazing team, with the professional rowers as well. We’re surrounded by the best.” – Louise Thompson

As this is a relay challenge, the teams need to try and maintain power and pace by swapping in and out of their respective boats. Each team duly takes up a position around their rower and then moves round one by one after every 15 strokes.

Going head-to-head

Louise and Ryan start the race off – Ryan is pure power while Louise is small but quick. Each team counts down the number of strokes ready for the next rower to jump on. It’s neck and neck for the first couple of km as seen on the TV screen that tracks the progress, but then Ryan’s team’s studious prep comes to the fore and they creep ahead.

“I’m still buzzing, the adrenaline, the atmosphere was amazing.” – Louise Thompson

The atmosphere in the boat house is the next best thing to the actual Boat Race. Each team is spurred on by a roaring crowd of teammates, surrounding crew and supporters, keeping their adrenaline pumping. Ryan’s team’s slick changeovers and relay order make them slightly faster and they manage to gain a 6 second lead over Louise’s team. They maintain this lead right to the end of the trial when Ryan takes the final leg to bring his team home for victory.

“I’m still buzzing, the atmosphere was amazing,” says Louise. Ryan says he can’t wait for Sunday: “Imagine what it will be like on race day!”

Staying hydrated

“Because I train a lot I think it’s important to be hydrated the whole time.” – Ryan Libbey

Louise and Ryan spend a lot of time in the gym together and so water is an intrinsic part of their diet. Ryan says: “I’m forever with a bottle of water in my hands. Now I’m so in tune with my body, I can really feel the effects of dehydration. Because I train a lot I think it’s important to be hydrated the whole time.”

Even with Louise’s busy schedule she makes sure she drinks water every morning and evening. “I think people have a problem where they don’t drink enough, they don’t realise the importance of it. The great thing about these bottles is they’re a great size. I’m all about packaging. I think it’s very smart, it’s a good size, it’s very convenient.”

“I’m Oxford, you’re Cambridge. Now we’ll see who wins. You can’t win that one as well!” – Louise Thompson

Celebratory breakfast

After team photos in the Fulham Reach Boat Club, the rowers make their way back to the club room on wobbly legs for breakfast. The two crews definitely have a new-found respect for each other after going the distance.

Louise says: “We were so lucky to have such an amazing team, with the professional rowers as well. We’re surrounded by the best. And it was great to have diversity – there were people who don’t row, people who have tried rowing, and then the uber rowers.”

Ryan adds: “We’ve never really rowed before, so it was new to us as well. My body now is screaming at me.”

So who will Louise and Ryan be cheering on, on Sunday? Ryan is already supporting the Light Blues: “Cambridge baby, all the way. My eldest brother used to live there, and I was team Cambridge today.”

Louise responds: “I’m Oxford, you’re Cambridge. Now we’ll see who wins. You can’t win that one as well!”

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