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The Last Amateurs: To Hell and Back with the Cambridge Boat Race Crew [Hardcover]

Steven Redgrave , Mark de Rond
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
RRP: 17.99
Price: 15.87 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

14 Aug 2008
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.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 260 pages
  • Publisher: Icon Books Ltd (14 Aug 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848310153
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848310155
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.2 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 86,781 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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`[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


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

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
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
3.0 out of 5 stars Insightful into rowing 15 Dec 2009
I was really keen on knowing what the blues boat did in training. There was good detail into this. DeRond included himself a little too much in some of the chapters. I would have liked more detail post race to understand how they reacted after.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
An account of the 2007 Cambridge Boat Race crew selection and formation.. A quest to find the 'best 8' and not the '8 best' rowers... fascinating stuff..
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Despite being a Cambridge graduate, I didn't so much as sit in a boat during my time there - that said, the Boat Race is the one sporting fixture to which I am glued every year, and I find reading about it fascinating. I looked forward to reading this book, promising as it did to be very much an insider's view of the preparation for the race.

Unfortunately, it is massively disappointing, largely due to the ego of the author. There is a lot of philosophical discourse in the first chapter about what it means to be an "ethnographer", but this seems to exist as justification for the quite unbelievable amount of the book which is dedicated to writing about the author - his feelings, his dreams (as in the ones he has when asleep, not his aspirations), his hangovers - and I'm not even going to mention here which of his attributes he goes into unnecessary detail about in chapter 12.

Had Mr de Rond actually been a member of the crew itself, this might have been relevant, but it ends up as just so much padding. I want to read about the crew and the preparations for the race, not how an independent observer reacted to them or felt about them, and I'd guess that at least a quarter of the book is taken up by such things. I learned far more about the preparations for the Boat Race, and got far more of an insider's viewpoint, from Dan Topolski's excellent "True Blue", which I would strongly recommend over this title.
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4.0 out of 5 stars stimulating and entertaining 15 Aug 2012
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars fantastic read
As an avid 'fixed seat' sweep rower I was looking forward to reading this book.
I was not dissappointed - it keeps you hooked from start to finish, immersing you in the trials... Read more
Published on 18 Jun 2010 by Christopher J. Haines
3.0 out of 5 stars OK but not as good as Topolski
Bought it to go on holiday with and because of a flight delay, I ended up reading the whole thing before I actually left Blighty! But that's enough about me....or is it? Read more
Published on 4 Jun 2010 by Stanley Ash
5.0 out of 5 stars Balanced, weighted, engrossing and perfectly measured - just like...
This really is an excellent book. The author's insight into what goes on - not just in the boat itself, but in getting into that boat in the first place - is unparalleled. Read more
Published on 30 April 2009 by readinck
5.0 out of 5 stars Like Michael Lewis' Moneyball, only about a UK sport
I read this originally in hardback when it came out just after the 2008 Beijing Olympics and I thought it was fascinating. Read more
Published on 29 April 2009 by NKP
3.0 out of 5 stars good but not great
de Rond's book is initially compelling and I had to finish it the day I started. Despite this, it was ultimately unsatisfying. Read more
Published on 1 Jan 2009 by 13
5.0 out of 5 stars Review by Allan Fowlie
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... Read more
Published on 30 Dec 2008 by S. MCANDREW
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