After an epic battle over the first half of the course, with Cambridge stealing a brief lead after Hammersmith, Oxford regained the initiative and moved steadily away to their third boat race victory in five years.
Early forecasts of a south-westerly breeze brought back memories of the Cambridge sinking in 1978, but when the wind backed round to the south-east the towpath talk instead centred on the possibility of a wind-assisted record to the Mile. But neither prediction was fulfilled. Cambridge won the Toss and chose the safe option of the Surrey station, but as the crews powered evenly off the Start it was Oxford who took a narrow lead. Two minutes into the race the Dark Blue cox, Nick Brodie, was warned for his steering by umpire John Garrett as the tips of their blades drifted dangerously close. But the leaders could not use the early Middlesex bend to its full advantage as the Cambridge used their higher rate of striking to good effect and stayed well in touch. Oxford were the first to reach the Mile in 4 min 9 secs, less than a second clear, and then mounted a serious challenge to move ahead and deny Cambridge the advantage of the Hammersmith bend that was about to swing in their favour. But Cambridge, with their stroke Ryan Monaghan still pushing them along at 36 strokes a minute against Oxford at 34, refused to go away, mounting a push of their own which saw them draw level for the first time. The Light Blue momentum was maintained all the way to Hammersmith Bridge which Cambridge reached one second ahead in 7 mins 34 secs. With the Hammersmith bend continuing to unwind in Cambridge’s favour they briefly took a 2/3 length advantage but then Oxford raised their game for what was to prove the killer blow. Raising their rate to 36 strokes a minute, two pips higher than the opposition for the first time in the race, they launched an attack to which the tiring Cambridge men had no response. At Chiswick Steps, where the time was 17 mins 16.5 secs the three second margin equated to a full length in Oxford’s favour. River conditions became unsettled approaching the Crossing, but were nothing compared with pre-race predictions of standing waves. The leading Oxford crew sought the shelter of the Middlesex bank beneath the Bandstand, where they now led by some five lengths. They reached Barnes Bridge in 17 mins 14 secs, a full sixteen seconds clear of Cambridge, and were then able to choose the centre line all the way home.
They crossed the line to win the 154th Boat Race by six lengths in 20 mins 53 secs, the slowest time since 1947.
Every member of The Boat Race crews trains for approximately two hours for every stroke in the race.
It takes about 600 strokes to complete the course.
The Boat Race attracts a crowd of around 250,000 to the banks of the River Thames between Putney and Mortlake.
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(Pictures by Reuters)