O21 Television finds right stroke for Oxford-Cambridge University Boat Race

By Kevin Hilton

SVG Europe editor

The Oxford-Cambridge University Boat Race, among the most English of
all sporting events, hit a UK television audience peak of 7.6 million
on Saturday, the highest number of viewers since ITV took over coverage
in 2005. Broadcast facilities for ITV
Sport were supplied by outside broadcast company 021 Television, with
engineering support by Omni TV and specialist equipment from Camera
Corps. Each boat was fitted with two Hitachi KPD8 miniature cameras,
one with an image stabilizer mounted on the stern a meter above the
crew, the other focusing on the cox. Both coxes were fitted with radio
mics so that their exhortations to the rowers could be heard.

To
ensure clear pictures during an inevitably wet event, either from river
spray or rain, the KPD8s featured an air canister that could be
triggered from a follow boat over a GPS link and interface to clean the
lenses. The GPS connection also carried the pictures, which were
relayed from the craft that is part of the flotilla following the
racing eights to receivers placed on the riverbank along the course and
then on to the OB truck. Further angles came from cameras on these
boats, the riverside and aircraft.

Oxford won the 154th Race, beating Cambridge by six
lengths at the end of 6.78km on the River Thames in 20 minutes, 53
seconds, the slowest winning time in 61 years. The Dark Blues scored a
double victory as the reserve boats race was taken by its Isis crew,
over the Light Blues’ Goldie boat.

The worldwide audience for
the Boat Race is estimated at 120 million and for the second year it
was transmitted live in the US on the 24-hour college sports network
ESPNU.