Thursday, 1 May 2008

The Last Amateurs by Mark de Rond

Brideshead Revisited meets Fight Club in this thrilling, first-hand account of a year in the life of Cambridge University’s Boat Race squad.

Founded in 1828, the Cambridge University Boat Club has one objective: to beat Oxford in the Boat Race. This annual affair is one of sharp contrasts: a private match between two of the world’s oldest universities, it is still followed by millions worldwide; an occasion marked by tribal rivalry, it also harbours deep mutual respect; quintessentially British, it is contested by amateurs who are nevertheless world-class sportsmen; it is all about taking part and yet the pain of losing is unimaginable.

A Cambridge don in his late thirties, Mark de Rond spent a year living the blood, sweat and tears of the 39 students risking all for a chance to race Oxford, seeing in them everything he is not. This intense and deeply personal account reinforces the great traditions of Oxbridge, yet gives them a human face. For despite their brilliance, these individuals are flawed too.

So what does it take to row in the coveted Blue Boat? De Rond delves into the depths of what it means to be a man and the primeval desire to compete. Told chronologically and driven by the pursuit of the final victory, the result is truly compelling – and a sports book like no other.

Mark de Rond described by the Financial Times as ‘Cambridge’s secret weapon for the Boat Race’, is an Oxford-educated Cambridge don. His work has also featured in Time, the Economist, The Times, The Week, and on BBC Radio 4.

Sir Steve Redgrave CBE is widely considered to be Britain’s greatest Olympian, having won a gold medal in rowing at five consecutive Olympic Games from 1984 to 2000, as well as an additional bronze medal in 1988.

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