Despite Oxford being tipped as 2/5 favourites to win the 156th boat race, Cambridge came from behind to win one of the most enthralling races in recent history in a time of 17 minutes and 35 seconds.
Thousands of people lined the banks of the river Thames from Putney to Mortlake on Saturday afternoon, to try and catch a glimpse of the fantastic spectacle that was the 156th Varsity Boat Race. The general public, media and present and past students of both universities vociferously supported their crews.
An hour and 45 minutes before the race, the Oxford Boat Club president Sjoerd Hamburger won the historically important toss and chose to race from the Surrey Station, giving Oxford the advantage on the long Surrey bend in the middle of the race.
Given that 39 of the last 64 races have been won by the boat at the Surrey station, everything seemed to be going to plan for the hotly tipped Oxford boat.
The powerful Oxford crew made a blistering start to the race, with a good rhythm giving them a ¼ of a length lead on Cambridge after only a minute gone. The early exchanges of the race then all seemed to go to the Oxford crew, who despite being on the outside of the first bend, managed to take a ¾ of a length lead at the first mile post.
Having without a doubt set off hard in order to nullify Cambridge’s advantage at the first bend, Oxford reached the mile post in a time of 3 minutes 37 seconds, just six seconds behind the record time.
However, the impressive Cambridge cox Ted Randolph steered the light Blues very close to Oxford around the Surrey bend, so lessening the dark blues advantage of the inside of the bend.
After half of Oxford’s Surrey bend at Hammersmith Bridge, Cambridge managed to creep to within half a length of Oxford, keeping them in the race. This valiant rowing from Cambridge seemed to affect the Oxford crew who, perhaps worrying that they had not created a substantial enough lead with their advantage, began to look a little laboured. It was at this point that Cambridge clearly called a push and upped the stroke rate, gaining almost ¾ of a length against the bend which is supposedly worth ¾ of a length to Oxford.
Despite this exchange, coming up to the last bend in the race, the two crews were dead level and it was still anybody’s race. However, here Cambridge began to push on and with Oxford’s cox Adam Barhamand having to use more rudder than his counterpart in order to keep the right line, Oxford seemed to slow. The light blues, buoyed by the fact that it was they who now held the advantage of the inside bend, began to pull away, opening up a half a length lead as they passed Barnes Bridge.
In the entire history of the Boat Race, only two crews have ever come back from a losing position at this point to win and yet this year, the race was still in the balance and one felt that with one last push Oxford just might clinch it. But the uplifted Cambridge crew pushed hard for the finish line and with a minute to go, upped their stroke rate to 40 and pushed away towards victory.
They crossed the line officially 1 and a 1/3 lengths up on Oxford, taking the total tally of wins to 80 for Cambridge and 75 to Oxford, with one dead heat.
Before Saturday both the Oxford blue boat and the Isis crew were looking to seal a hat trick of victories over their tab counterparts and they were both hotly tipped to do so. Yet it was Cambridge who ended up taking both exchanges; ending Oxford’s recent dominance in the events.