Oxford win controversy-free Boat Race
LONDON (AFP) –
Favourites Oxford surged to victory over Cambridge in the 159th Boat Race on Sunday, a year after the 2012 event had been controversially disrupted by a protestor.
Amid tightened security on the River Thames, Oxford powered home to win the 4.2-mile (6.8-kilometre) race by a length and a half, trimming Cambridge’s overall lead in the event to 81-77.
“It was fun, tough, but that was what we expected,” said Oxford cox Oskar Zorrilla. “We had a plan and we stuck to it ruthlessly.”
Last year’s race, won by Cambridge, had to be restarted after Australian Trenton Oldfield swam into the path of the two boats in a protest against elitism and government cuts.
He was released from prison in December after serving seven weeks of a six-month sentence for causing a public nuisance.
In response to the incident, race organisers drafted in Royal Marines to patrol the river in inflatable boats and ensure the event was not disrupted again.
Oxford University Boat Club president Alex Davidson won the toss and chose to start the race from the Surrey station, which had yielded the contest’s two previous winners.
The race began beneath grey skies and amid wintry conditions on the river in the south-west London district of Putney.
Race umpire Matthew Pinsent, a four-time Olympic champion, set the boats off and Oxford were quickly into the lead.
The two crews’ oars touched as the teams approached the Craven Cottage stadium of Premier League football club Fulham, but Oxford emerged with their lead intact.
With the urgent promptings of the two crews’ coxes broadcast to television viewers, including the odd impromptu swear word, Cambridge doggedly tried to keep pace as Oxford’s dark blues sliced through the murky water.
At the Chiswick Steps, scene of Oldfield’s protest, Oxford moved clear and were able to position themselves directly in front of the light blue boat.
Cambridge responded bravely, but there was no catching Oxford, who crossed the finishing line in Mortlake in front of thousands of cheering fans in a time of 17 minutes and 27 seconds.
“Oxford put together a really fantastic race,” said Cambridge University Boat Club president George Nash.
“Eventually they put in one too many moves, they asked too many questions, and we were just unable to come up with the goods.”
Oxford and Cambridge, Britain’s two oldest universities, contested their first race in 1829 and have competed against each other every year since 1856, barring years interrupted by war.