Sisters preparing to face off in the Oxford v Cambridge Boat Race

Maria and Helen Nielsen-Scott hope to make history on Saturday as the first sisters to row against each other in the race between Oxford and Cambridge.

The moment will be a landmark in the 78 years in which women have been allowed to take part in the Boat Race.

The sisters rowed together for Oxford last year, taking part in the race by reserve crews that came after the first eight’s competition.

Helen, 22, graduated in music at Oxford, and will be rowing for Cambridge, as she is now training to be a teacher at the university’s Emmanuel College. Maria, 24, is in her final year studying medicine at Exeter College at Oxford, and will row for the university’s reserves against her sister’s crew.

Helen said: “Last year together we built up such a good relationship with the rest of our crew. But, sadly, Oxford doesn’t offer the course which I wanted for my career. I wanted PGCE for primary schools and Oxford only offers it for secondary school training, so I had to change university and I knew I wanted to carry on rowing, so Cambridge was the obvious choice.”

Meet up for lunch

Maria said: “Helen was a bit shifty when I found out she was thinking of changing university. But it didn’t bother me that much and we are planning to meet up for lunch together in the week of the race next week.

“The situation of racing against my sister definitely adds a bit more fun because you know someone so well in the other competitor’s crew.”

The sisters grew up in the Wirral and went to St John Plessington school together. Although they didn’t row as children, they did both swim and trained together several times a week.

The sisters are both athletically built and row in the “engine room” in the middle of their crews, and will be just feet apart staring out the rival crew on the start line at Putney.

Asked how their parents Jane and Tim will deal with the rivalry next weekend, Helen said: “My parents will go and support at the finish line in Mortlake…and make sure they are wearing neutral colours!”

The women’s race next Saturday afternoon will be followed by the Men’s Race, now in its 169th year and one of the world’s oldest sporting competitions.

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