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The Last Amateurs: To Hell and Back with the Cambridge Boat Race Crew Paperback – 5 Mar 2009

3.8 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Icon Books Ltd (5 Mar. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848310455
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848310452
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.3 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 633,898 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


A good book, outstandingly vivid in its description of the difficulties the squad encountered -- Rowing and Regatta Magazine

De Rond does a great job in portraying the stresses and strains - emotional and physical.
-- BBC Sport Website, listed as one of the Best Sporting Reads of 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

highly entertaining, and provides a real insight into the trials and tribulations, the bonding sessions and arguments, of the squad -- Scotland on Sunday


Sports journalism of the highest order

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Paperback
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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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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