Oxford’s rowers have emerged triumphant from a dramatic boat race, coming back from an early Cambridge advantage to claim a convincing victory.
Cambridge powered ahead in the first minutes of the race, establishing a three-quarter length lead over their rivals. But an Oxford push at around the halfway point, following a clash of oars, allowed the Dark Blues to pull ahead.
Their light blue opponents proved unable to close the gap, with Oxford eventually winning by a distance of three and a half lengths.
The result justifies bookkeepers’ faith in Oxford. The team, the heaviest ever fielded in a university boat race, had been the overwhelming favourites.
Oxford cox Colin Groshong said he had been confident of victory. “I knew we had the guns for the whole course,” he said. “It was a great feeling knowing I had that at my fingertips.”
The race began with bad luck for Oxford as Cambridge won the toss, allowing them to choose which side of the river to race on. They opted for the south or “Surrey” station, which is the faster side of the river early in the course.
However, their attempts to build an unassailable lead before halfway suffered an early blow when they failed to respond immediately to referee Boris Rankov’s starting shout.
The team managed to draw ahead at the three minute mark, following aggressive demands for a push from cox Rebecca Dowbiggin. But their fragile advantage was lost at the halfway point of the race as Rankov was forced to separate the crews after a clash of oars. Groshong chose the moment of confusion to order a push, and his men responded by increasing their stroke rate to a steady 38 strokes a minute. The Oxford team gradually pulled ahead as Cambridge proved unable to match the surge.
By the time the crews reached Chiswick Steps, the Dark Blues’ power and the late advantage of the north side of the river had opened a two-length gap between the crews. The Oxford team crossed the line several seconds ahead of their rivals to win the race in a total time of 17 minutes, the fastest winning time since 2005.
Oxford president Colin Smith told press “It was a really tough race, especially by halfway and Cambridge came close to making it their day.”
“By choosing the Surrey station they had to win by halfway, but as long as we hung in there and rowed with rhythm, it was going to be tough for them.”
Oxford’s victory means they have now won four of the last five races. However, Cambridge still lead once the event’s 180-year history is taken into account: they have won a total of 79 boat races to Oxford’s 75.