Boat Race to make history with first ‘gender swap’ coxes in 40 years

“I admit I was sceptical at first,” says Rosa Millard, who will row in the Cambridge two seat. “Largely because he learned his rowing at an all boys school and had never coxed women before. But I’ve been pleasantly surprised. He gets us.”

It is an unusual relationship between cox and crew. In the boat, the cox steers the course, reading the currents to ensure the best direction. They also, via a loudspeaker, loudly issue instructions. Out of it, they work alongside the coach in training, chivvying, motivating, leading the visualisation sessions. And this despite contributing nothing physically to the collective effort.

“Fortunately they have never accused me of mansplaining,” says Trotman. “No, I haven’t heard that one yet.”

O’Hanlon, meanwhile, says she is not one for being too noisy in the boat.

“I’m more reserved than some coxswains,” she says. “I like to use my words to get a reaction. So when the boys hear me it means something: if I say now, it’s now.”

And, unlike many of her contemporaries of either sex, she is not a cox inclined to use foul language to chivvy her charges.
“Yeah, the Aussie who doesn’t swear,” she says. “Who’d believe it?”

One thing Boat Race coxes of both and all sexes face, however, is the certainty that victory will be marked by the age old tradition of being hurled into the water by the rest of their crew.

“Yeah, will be interesting if we win,” says Trotman. “I just hope they don’t choose Sunday to release a load of sewage into the Thames.”