30 March 2024

Cambridge continue Boat Race dominance with double victory

30 March 2024

Cambridge extended their dominant run in the Boat Race with victory in both the men’s and women’s showdowns.

The men claimed a fifth trophy in six years, while the women cruised to a seventh straight triumph.

Crews were blessed with sunny conditions, with temperatures reaching the mid-teens and just a light breeze blowing ahead of launch time for the women’s race at 2:46pm.

Those pleasant conditions were in contrast to the news earlier this week that high levels of E. coli, which can cause a range of serious infections and other side-effects, had been found along the championship course.

All crews were issued safety guidance on a range of preventative measures, from covering up scrapes with waterproof plasters to ensuring rowers avoided swallowing any water that splashed up from the Thames.

Oxford won both coin tosses but opted for different starting points, with the women choosing Middlesex on the Fulham/Chiswick side of the course and the men beginning their quest at Surrey station on the Putney/Barnes side.

Both dark blue Oxford boats were seen as favourites for the 78th women’s and 169th men’s races.

The latter, umpired by Matthew Pinsent – himself a two-time Boat Race champion with Oxford – saw Cambridge take an early lead before Oxford quickly drew level as the four-time Olympic champion dished out early warnings as the boats drew close.

Cambridge took a narrow lead, which saw them ahead by half a length and 1.52 seconds at Hammersmith Bridge, and settled into a smooth rhythm that left Oxford even further behind.

Oxford, with just one returning crew member from last year’s loss, had fallen behind by more than 10 seconds by the time the crews reached the Chiswick steps, but it was not completely smooth sailing for the eventual victors.

Stroke Matt Edge was clearly flailing, his oar only just dipping in the water, but Cambridge’s lead proved too big an ask for Oxford as Edge’s crew rallied around their tiring team-mate to claim another victory.

Cambridge were also seen as underdogs in the women’s race, which ultimately ended in a seventh straight victory after a mid-race controversy led to Oxford appealing to umpire Richard Phelps after the crews had crossed the finish line.

Oxford got out to a flying start with their first 20 strokes,  but the light blue boat crept closer as the  rivals passed Craven Cottage, the spot where last year Cambridge cox Jasper Parrish made the critical decision to move closer to the riverbank that led to the men lifting the trophy.

The dark blue boat clung on to a narrow lead, and courted controversy when, after Cambridge had been warned by the umpire, Oxford – according to Phelps – drifted into Cambridge’s station and appeared to bump their boat.

While Oxford cox Joe Gellett – who argued it was in fact Oxford who had been encroached upon at the time of the incident – desperately pleaded his case with Phelps after his crew’s seven-length disappointment was sealed, his protestations were not enough to convince the Olympian, who stood by his decision to award Cambridge the trophy.

Cambridge claimed a third triumph in the men’s reserves, while Oxford were first across the finish line in the women’s counterpart.

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