Better than the Boat Race

Relay handover

Soren does a handstand on the frozen lake

Better than the Boat Race: VM 2002 - Stockholm

On 16th-17th March, 70 past and present students of Oxford and Cambridge universities went head-to-head in their annual Varsity Match. Thanks to the organisational prowess of Nick Barrable (FVO, JOK), the co-operation of his Swedish club, OK Ravinen, and the generosity of race sponsors Inter-Se Language Consultants, Östgöta Enskilda Bank, Synopsys and Coutts and Co., this year's race was held in the exotic locale of Hellasgården, Stockholm. The intricate Nordic terrain was always going to prove a true test, not only of the abilities of the best Varsity orienteers, but also - with four men and three women to count towards each team title - of the depth of the two teams. Patchy snow in the forest, sub-zero temperatures, and frozen lakes and marshes added to the sense of anticipation that this 31st chapter in Varsity Match history was going to be a special one.

As it turned out, the Classic was held under brilliant blue skies and heralded a Light Blue landslide. Cambridge's Mark Bown and Rachael Elder swept aside all-comers to win their third individual title each in four years, and Cambridge won the men's and women's team trophies by convincing margins. Only in the men's B race did Cambridge find Oxford (in the words of my old high school principal) "a little too strong." However, in the battle of the ex-students, individual victories for Ann and Eric Roller ensured further success for the Cambridge old boys and girls (DRONGO).

Sunday's relays saw the DRONGO team of Steve Nicholson, Cath Ashton and Mattias Mahr emerge victorious over Cambridge (Alan Elder, Rachael Elder and Mark Bown) and JOK (Nick Barrable, Christine Currie and Duncan Archer). In a magnanimous gesture, Cambridge let Oxford win the final trophy - the beer race - later that night. The best Varsity Match ever? Now there's something that Oxford and Cambridge can agree on.

Written by Wayne Patrick

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