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The Last Amateurs: To Hell and Back with the Cambridge Boat Race Crew Hardcover – 14 Aug 2008

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 239 pages
  • Publisher: Icon Books Ltd; 1st edition (14 Aug. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848310153
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848310155
  • Product Dimensions: 13.4 x 1.9 x 20.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 365,149 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

`[Mark de Rond] gives intelligent and thoughtful voice to the essentials that make up the 180-year-old Boat Race experience.' -- The Guardian, August 16th, 2008

'It provides a rare glimpse of the birth, development and management of an elite team getting ready to perform under great pressure.' -- The Financial Times, August 14, 2008

'Oxford and Cambridge are mirrors of each other, absolute partners and rivals for almost every step of the way. The internal battles for selection, friend against friend; the disappointments; the training-camp existence; the personalities - all are perfectly matched by the opposition.' -- Daniel Topolski, The Guardian, August 2008

'This book has much to teach about what makes a great team tick...You won't read a better book on teams anywhere else this year.' -- The Financial Times, August 14, 2008

`De Rond lives, breathes and sweats with the squad, seeing egos and frailties at close range. He paints their clashing characters well, detailing the battle between the British and German champions, two alpha males, who vie to occupy the prime stroke seat, and the frustrations of those on the cusp of selection.' -- Patrick Kidd, The Times, August 2008

`He gives intelligent and thoughtful voice to the essentials that make up the 180-year-old Boat Race experience.' -- Daniel Topolski, The Guardian, August 2008

`Sports journalism of the highest order' -- Patrick Kidd, The Times, August 2008

Review

Sports journalism of the highest order --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By D. Ballard on 11 Oct. 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a fascinating inside look at the preparation by the 2007 winning Cambridge Boat Race crew by a sociologist who more or less lived with the squad throughout the period and who appears to have played a crucial role at some moments - for instance in helping sort out some disputes within one of the crews.

It comes close to Daniel Topolski's 'Boat Race', the story of the Oxford revival from 1973 to 1984 and for me one of the best books on rowing ever written. It is miles ahead of Topolski's account of the 1987 mutiny - for me far over rated.

I was once captain of the rowing club (Jesus College) right next to the Goldie Boathouse (the CUBC headquarters) and have known some Boat Race oarsmen quite well - e.g rowed in races with them. And yet it is a very closed world, not open to the uninitiated. I had no idea what went on in there and this book really does open the doors. I found it extremely interesting.

Some fasinating insights included the detailed description by an (anonymous) squad member of how legally to raise testosterone levels before a race (the lengths these men would go to!). And then quick advice on how best to lower them again. The selection battles for the crew are well described and left me with the uneasy feeling that there might well have been people who had good grounds for feeling unhappy about not being in the crew.

The account of the replacement of Russ Glenn as cox just before the race is very sympathetic but, by contrast, leaves one in little doubt that the decision was hard but fair.

I was left with a great deal of sympathy - even liking - for the crew and for the Head Coach Duncan Holland, who left his position as Head Coach when his contract was not renewed after losing the Boat Race in 2008.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By NeilC VINE VOICE on 28 Dec. 2008
Format: Hardcover
Mark de Rond's book is a fascinating look into the often mis-understood world of Cambridge rowing. Written in a diary format from when the crew hopefuls assemble in September through the various selection tests to the formation of the crews and the actual boat race in April. His book contains many insights into rowing training in general but also the unique set-up of the Cambridge University Boat Club. He looks at the personalities, the intra-crew tensions, the traditions and the tough selection decisions.

The only criticism I have is that De Rond, especially in the early chapters, seemed intent in making himself part of the story. With a preface that pointlessly agonizes about his role as anthropologist and whether or not he can be objective and later chapters that talk about his own experience of rowing the head of the charles I would have preferred if he'd told the story more from the perspective of pure observer.
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Format: Hardcover
This book provides a fantastic insight into the emotion and psychology of competitive team sports. Even though the result of the race is known, Mark du Rond's wonderful pacing of the story ensured that I STILL got nervous as the Boat Race date loomed ever closer. I found myself worrying that the team has not resolved several key issues until late in the day and was fascinated at how they were resolved as the fog of the selection process cleared and the crew gradually emerged and took control of their own destiny.

Much to my wife's (mild) displeasure (she bought the book for me) I could not put it down until the whole story had been told. One of the things that emerges from the story is to remind us that competition is not JUST about winning, it is about the journey we take toward our goals, what we learn about ourselves along the way and what we carry forward forever with us whatever the result.

Despite being originally an "Oxford man", over the course of the months of training Mark earns, for the reader, a seat at the selection meetings and the elite dinners and places us within earshot of the private conversations with the team where we learn of their hopes and fears and individual struggles. I think this book is a big achievement and I HIGHLY recommend it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
De Rond's writing skills are clearly still being honed in this stimulating and entertaining book. To expect an ethnographer to be able to write like a novelist is perhaps asking too much, but all in all I found the book to be insightful in so many ways that any minor stylistic qualms I might have had soon gave way to a genuine enthusiasm for the subject and the message. Living with a team within such an evocative and historic environment as Cambridge cannot have been easy and one of the most tellingly positive aspects of the final product is that the CUBC guys still hold him in high regard. From an academic standpoint De ROnd's later work ("There is an I in team") benefits from the experiences that he gained in living with the cambridge crew. Since this book was published De Rond's standing and reputation have gained very significantly as an ethnographer, and therefore I am not sure if he will ever come back to the subject in the way that he approached in "Last Amateurs" which I think is a shame because part of the appeal of Last Amateurs is a certain innocence. I would recommend this book for anyone that is interested either in the Oxbridge boat race, or with the dynamics of high performance teams.
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