Boat Race 2023: Oxford rower Felix Drinkall collapses after Cambridge victory
By Jim White, on the Thames
For the fourth time in the past five outings, Cambridge won the University Boat Race. Not that, under Chiswick Bridge at the finish line, the delight in victory had diminished by regularity.
In the Cambridge boat the cox Jasper Parish stood up, arms aloft, bellowing his delight. He then dived forward into the arms of his brother Ollie, who was sitting in the number seven seat, for a moment of intense sibling celebration.
Meanwhile, in the Oxford boat, Felix Drinkall, the stroke, had slumped forward across his oar. Exhausted, spent, finished, he had passed out. Noting his discomfort, the medical staff on the supporting RNLI launch sped over. He was lifted out of the seat and put into their boat, which raced him to the bank for medical attention. Fortunately he quickly recovered, though he was taken to hospital for a check-up. But the pain will not have left him. Poor Drinkall: it was his fourth attempt to win the race. Now his record reads: three defeats and one race cancelled by the pandemic.
Boat race organisers announced later on Sunday that Drinkall was "doing well" and thanked the RNLI for helping get him medical attention so quickly.
For Cambridge the glory was all theirs. And according to Ollie Parish, much of the responsibility for victory lay with the crew member who did not so much as lift an oar: his brother Jasper. Because as the two boats sped off along the tideway, passing as they went the splendid new grandstand at Fulham Football Club, the Cambridge cox made the decisive move.
It is here, in normal circumstances, that the boats vie for the centre of the river, where the water is smooth and fast. But the conditions on the Tideway were testing. Under brooding cloud, a sharp north wind hit the crews immediately they rounded the first bend after leaving Putney Bridge. The water chopped and foamed around them. Plumes of spray were lifted by every stroke. It was then that Jasper Parish did something wholly unexpected: he steered the boat away from the middle, taking a course right up against the back of the football stand.
“I saw the opportunity to make a decision early on and I thought, ‘Why not, might as well go for it’”, he explained after the race, as he stood by the riverbank dripping wet after being thrown into the water by his celebrating team-mates. “We were pretty much level going into it and I seem to recall taking an entire margin over that bend. I knew we were either going to go up five seats or lose five seats. Had we lost five seats it would have cost us the race. I’m just over the moon that it paid off. Actually, it paid off big-time for us.”
He was right there. From the moment he made his move, Cambridge eased into the lead, leaving Oxford to plough through their wash. They had the advantage and they were not going to relinquish it. Not that the dark blue eight gave up. Even as they seemed destined for what can be the most forlorn, gut-wrenching chase in world sport, they refused to yield.
In the launch that carries the university dignitaries that was running along behind them, a smartly attired woman was standing up yelling words of support. From the balconies of the posh houses along the bank, bellows of encouragement rang out. And coming under Barnes Bridge, Oxford made a final spurt. They moved up a couple of seats. For a moment it looked as if the most dramatic of comebacks was on the cards. But it was not enough. Cambridge won by just over a length, to record their fourth victory in the past five races. And in the effort, Oxford, Drinkall in particular, had exhausted themselves.
As they engaged in the traditional celebrations of spraying each other with champagne and then throwing the cox into the freezing tidal reach, Ollie Parish was delighted by his brother’s contribution to the race. Their father Matt had won twice for Cambridge in the early Nineties. And here were the two brothers emulating their father's success.
“We’ve been rowing for eight years and never got to row together, so the first year we row together we win. What an amazing moment,” he said. “He made the call and it made the difference. We could watch Oxford scramble in the rough stuff, and we really took advantage. Once we got clear water, we moved in front and controlled the race. It was the game-changing moment. It was the key moment in the race. To come up with it on the fly is amazing. It was amazing coxing and it won us the race.”
With that the brothers joined their team-mates in their celebrations. For Oxford, the reaction was somewhat different. With his mate on the way to hospital, obliged to watch as Cambridge cavorted, one of the dark blue crew sat down on the riverbank and sobbed.
Cambridge women thrash Oxford
By Jim White
Cambridge completed a clean sweep of victories across the four races on the river: the men’s, women’s and two reserve contests. Their total triumph began with the women’s race. And in many ways, that was the most comprehensive of the victories across the afternoon. The eight light blue-clad women completed the course in a speedy 20 minutes 28 seconds, a full 12 seconds ahead of a despondent Oxford crew. It was their sixth win on the bounce.
"That was a whirlwind of a race," Caoimhe Dempsey, the only rower to return to the boat after last year’s victory, said. "The conditions changed so much from start to finish. I'm so proud; it is still sinking in. The girls are so tenacious, strong and brave."
This was a different kind of victory. Last year, Dempsey was joined in the boat by Grace Prendergast, the New Zealand Olympic champion and then the most successful rower in the world. This time around, however, it was very much an undergraduate thing. The grand Olympians have been otherwise engaged in their training programmes ahead of Paris next summer. But the young, inexperienced crew showed real tenacity.
On choppy, difficult water, the Oxford crew made the initial running. Perhaps aware that they did not have Cambridge’s strength and power, they burst from Putney Bridge. But they could not sustain their initial lead. When they needed to take advantage of the bend, they could not press home their lead. A couple of hundred yards from Hammersmith Bridge, Cambridge made their move. There was much tussle and chop. The boats came very close.
Matt Smith, the umpire, following behind in his launch, vigorously semaphored his flag, bawling at them to keep apart. Tara Slade, the Oxford cox who had done her undergraduate degree at Cambridge, furiously raised her arm in complaint that her opponents had been too close. But ultimately, it made no difference. By the time the boats had passed under the currently redundant Hammersmith Bridge, the light blues were away and gone, their male cox James Trotman yelling out triumphant instruction.
For Oxford, already spent, there was no way back. Slade had the best view on the river, and could only watch on as Cambridge, smooth, coordinated, rhythmical, moved away. She appealed again after the race that her boat had been illegally impeded. But Smith reckoned hers a pointless complaint. He had seen nothing untoward.
For Trotman the conclusion was very different. He found himself held aloft by his eight female team-mates and flung deep into the Tideway. So enthusiastic were they in their chucking, at least one of the rowers fell over and soaked themselves, too. Not that they will have worried. When you have won for the sixth time on the bounce, falling in the water is of little consequence.
Boat Race 2023, as it happened
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congratulations to Cambridge. See you next year...
Report from the news wires
Cambridge's men and women secured double Boat Race glory over Oxford on a dominant afternoon for the light blues.
After the women's team had claimed their sixth successive victory earlier in the day, Cambridge's men took the honours later on to complete the double.
With no Olympians in this year's edition it felt like one of the purest men's races in recent memory as Oxford looked to defend their 2022 title, while Cambridge hoped to make it four wins in the last five.
The eventual winners experienced rudder issues that threatened to delay the beginning of the 168th edition of the men's race, taking place under blustery conditions on the traditional Thames Tideway course.
Both boats earned early warnings from umpire Tony Reynolds as pre-race bookmakers' favourites Oxford with the weight advantage, pulled ahead.
While each crew boasted men with previous blue boat experience, only Cambridge featured two 2022 returnees in Luca Ferraro, who made the switch from bow to stroke, and captain Ollie Parish in the seven-seat.
Parish's coxswain brother Jasper won with the women last year and this time joined his brother in the men's boat.
That proved to be a critical swap when Jasper made a risky call near Fulham's Craven Cottage stadium to pull closer to the bank and river wall, and closer to the bend, hoping to find friendlier waters.
It turned out to be an inspired decision, allowing the light blue boat to take a half-length's lead, and while Oxford would not let their opponents get away, their bow often drawing level with their rivals' stern but unable to gain significant ground as Cambridge carried their advantage over the finishing line.
There was cause for concern for Oxford when stroke Felix Drinkall appeared to collapse in the boat and was quickly attended by the medical team, with the BBC reporting the rower had been taken to hospital.
Earlier on Sunday, Cambridge claimed a sixth straight win in the 77th edition of the women's race, beating Oxford by a dominant 4 1/2 lengths.
Both blue boats broke records in 2022, Cambridge edging out their competition by 2 1/4 lengths, yet with Cambridge president Caoimhe Dempsey the only returnee for either university and no Olympians in either crew for 2023 it was bound to be a different race.
Cambridge were the heavy favourites again and chose Surrey Station after winning the coin toss, but it was Oxford who got out to an early lead in the blustery conditions.
The defending champions quickly clawed back Oxford's advantage and were soon back in control of their own destiny, though things got interesting at Hammersmith Bridge, umpire Matt Smith issuing a strong warning as the boats pulled dangerously close and Oxford threatened to bump their opponents.
Cambridge steered clear and by the halfway point were well ahead and Smith had put his flags away as Cambridge battled their way through the choppy waters and to victory.
Cambridge women's president Caoimhe Dempsey told BBC Sport: "I genuinely haven't caught my breath. That was just such a whirlwind of a race, there was so much going on, the conditions changed so much from start to finish.
"I'm so proud. It's a completely different experience as a president, and it's a completely different experience sitting in the stroke seat but it's still sinking in, honestly. I'm just so proud of the girls. That was a tough race, there was so much going on and they handled it so well.
"They're just so tenacious and strong and brave and full credit to Oxford, they raced an amazing race, they really didn't let us go and they had an amazing start. They could handle the conditions so well. It's just such an amazing thing to be a part of."
Cotter had a good day
I can hardly listen to Andrew Cotter commentating on the #boatrace without expecting a lovely labrador to raise its head in one of the boats and do something charming
— Susan Tomes (@susantomespiano) March 26, 2023
And here's the Cambridge women
tossing their cox into the river.
We'll keep this blog going for as long as we
can, not least to take in some news of Felix Drinkall as and when we have that.
The traditional cox tossing now underway
The Cambridge men get plenty of distance on Jasper Parish. He's halfway out to sea.
Cambridge's men and women
spraying the fizz as their presidents lift the trophies.
Cambridge also won in the reserve races. They all train and socialise as one boat club and it certainly looks like they have got a great vibe and set up going.
Andy Triggs Hodge
"The moment Cambridge ran over to the other side of the river it spooked the whole Oxford boat. They didn't know what to do with that. They saw them gaining ground. All of their plans went out the window, and Oxford were left out of the picture.
"Coxes can lose a race but it is very rare for one to win one. But I think that is what we saw today."
Oxford president Tassilo von Mueller
"I don't know how Felix is. He wasn't great in the boat. I hope he is alright.
"It is not the result we wanted to come out with. It is a battle between two sides so one will lose."
Clare Balding: "We are hearing that Felix is recovering, we will give you an update when we know it."
from Martin Cross on the BBC
"So close right to the finish. Oxford had the advantage on the Surrey station but this was an inspired bit of coxing from Jasper in the Cambridge boat. Look how close he is to Fulham football club. You don't see anybody take that line. But he took it because the water was flatter and that took Cambridge out to a half a length lead. That was an inspired bit of coxing by the 19-year-old. And look what it gave them: they got into clear water by Hammersmith so he could then move across and negate the advantage Oxford would have had around that Surrey bend. Rhythm carried Cambridge around the Hammersmith bend, so then they had 4m of clear water, they had the rhythm, and they looked so loose, so fluid. Beautiful. And coming round the last bend it meant Oxford had to go around the outside and they did not have enough left in the tank."
"The rush of emotions as we got across the line, it was like nothing else."
Brother Ollie: "We got tucked in away from the rough stuff. Jasper coxed an amazing race."
Ollie Boyne. "The conditions really difficult but that is the tideway, that is what make it special."
"Cambridge got over to the shelter and that got them out of the win, I think that left Oxford high and dry."
the Oxford stroke looks exhausted, he can barely hold the oar, he is going to need looked at by a medic. Zoe de Toledo says this will be worrying for the Oxford crew. It happened to one of her guys in her boat race - in fact to her husband...
Oxford's guys, who must be so knackered, are rowing really fast to get their boat over to the side of the river so their comrade can get some medical attention.
Cox Jasper Parrish climbs down the boat to hug his brother Ollie. Aw.
"This is one of the best races we've seen in years."
Cambridge have won the 168th men's #boatrace 🏆#bbcboatrace pic.twitter.com/G5tN2qxDGg
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) March 26, 2023
Cambridge under Barnes Bridge with a six second lead. Oxford putting in a bit push but it's Hail Mary time now. I'm looking forward to hearing more from the experts about the Cambridge cox tactics. They boldly cut across Oxford near the start. The ref bellowing at them like the FENTON!!!! man with the lost dog. But they have got away with it.
Andrew Cotter explains that it is very rare for a crew to come from behind from Barnes Bridge. three times in seventy odd years. Cambridge are well ahead now.
Cambridge are ahead.
Oxford hanging in there, they are forcing Cambridge to row round the outside of the bend and Cambridge are getting repeated warnings.
Really shows how arsed I am about international football that I’d rather watch the boat race #TheBoatRace
— Firby ⏱ (@FirbyJ_) March 26, 2023
Cambridge come right across Oxford.
if Oxford can bump them from behind here the Cambridge crew are toast.
#Cambridge Men receives 4 warnings now- umpire no action. Come on boys #Oxford #boatrace pic.twitter.com/ht400jmyTV
— Joseph Tije (@JBGetachew) March 26, 2023
Cambridge cox Jasper Parrish with a bold move, going over to the slack water by the Fulham Flats. The experts are divided - a bold move or a foolish one? And was the Oxford cox right to follow them over?
Two aggressive coxes. Cambridge have had four warnings so far. It's choppy. Oxford now being warned too.
Cambridge have made a hot start and are already being warned for their direction within a few seconds.
Away they go in the 168th Boat Race.
The men are on the start line
Cambridge have sorted out their rudder problem.
MEN'S RESERVE RACE RESULT:
A win for Goldie over Isis by 1L
— The Boat Race (@theboatrace) March 26, 2023
There may be a delay
to the start in the men's race. One of the crews (Balding did not say which one) has got a rudder problem. It's Cambridge.
Kyra Edwards says "rowing isn't a sport that comes to you, you have to seek it out." They are trying to get new rowing fans interested in the sport.
We want to spread the joy of rowing.
Helen Glover now on with Balding talking about deciding to go again for the Olympics.
"I grew up in a small town in Cornwall, it was something that people like me didn't do. I took up rowing at 21 and became Olympic champion four years later. It has changed my life."
Andrew Triggs Hodge
is trying to take rowing to a new audience.
"My comparison is always BMX and track cycling. They are the same sport but fundamentally different life skills."
Helin the losing president
"We feel we had a chance with the protest but I couldn't really see. I'm just going by what the cox says."
Dempsey the winning president
"A tough race, there was so much going on, the girls were tenacious and brave. We have girls with so many different experiences. I am very proud."
The mildly controversial incident
The cox expert Matt Holland on the BBC says "I don't agree with the umpire, I think it was Oxford that had come across and got behind Cambridge."
The Oxford cox
has her hand up and is protesting the call. She says they cut in front of us but the umpire says "Yes but there was no contact."
Expert Zoe Toledo says "there aren't many rules in the Boat Race, a lot of it is down to the umpire's discretion but there was no contact and it's hard to argue that it changed the outcome of the race."
Cambridge Women win
A commanding performance.
Cambridge romping home now. Andrew Cotter apologises for the language from their cox James Trotman.
Oxford cox telling the team to have pride, remember all their training. A game effort.
Cambridge cox has done a swear.
Coming to Barnes Bridge it must be about 3.5 seconds the lead to Cambridge.
Those crews again
Oxford: Laurel Kaye; Claire Aitken; Sara Helin; Ella Stadler; Alison Carrington; Freya Willis; Sarah Marshall; Esther Austin; Tara Slade (cox)
Cambridge: Carina Graf; Rosa Millard; Alex Riddell-Webster; Jenna Armstrong; Freya Keto; Isabelle Bastian; Claire Brillon; Caoimhe Dempsey; James Trotman (cox)
Oxford: James Forward; Alex Bebb; Freddy Orpin; Tom Sharrock; James Doran; Jean-Philippe Dufour; Tassilo von Mueller; Felix Drinkall; Anna O'Hanlon (cox)
Cambridge: Matt Edge; Brett Taylor; Noam Moulle; Seb Benzecry; Thomas Lynch; Nick Mayhew; Ollie Parish; Luca Ferraro; Jasper Parish (cox)
BBC talking this up, saying that the trailing Oxford women are not out of this, but this one looks done to me barring serious bad luck or mishap. Cambridge are way clear.
Cambridge are ahead of Oxford but have veered in front of them, Oxford put in a big push. Are they going to bump the Cambridge boat?! No. Cambridge come away and move to the side.
Heading past Barnes Wetlands, Cambridge have established a small lead. Oxford look relaxed, strong though, they don't look under too much pressure.
Matt Smith warns both crews for creeping close, and now warms Cambridge again.
"Press, and in. Press, and in," hisses the Cambridge cox, Trotman.
The boats are coming quite close to each other now. Cambridge, the favourites, have erased Oxford's early quarter length advantage.
They start at about 40 strokes per minute and then settle around 34. It is very close so far as we go around Craven Cottage. The water looks rough.
Oxford women look to have made a good start, punchy and aggressive.
We are ready on the start for the women. Cambridge cox has his hand up. No, he's okay.
We are ready to go...
But now Oxford have their hand up.
Ok. We are off! Matt Smith sends them away.
explaining about her astrophysics degree. Seems a very nice and clever young person. She says that if he is stuck with an astrophysics problem she will go onto the water and take hr mind of it with rowing.
She says when the boat is going well it feels amazing because it feels like all nine of them are one body and one mind.
Bow: Carina Graf (Emmanuel)
Rosa Millard (Trinity Hall)
Alex Riddell-Webster (Murray Edwards)
Jenna Armstrong (Jesus)
Freya Keto St. (Edmund’s)
Isabelle Bastian (Jesus)
Claire Brillon (Fitzwilliam)
Stroke: Caoimhe Dempsey (Newnham)
Cox: James Trotman (Sidney Sussex)
Bow: Laurel Kaye (Worcester)
Claire Aitken (Oriel)
Sara Helin (St. Peter’s)
Ella Stadler (Exeter)
Alison Carrington (Hertford)
Freya Willis (Magdalen)
Sarah Marshall (Jesus)
Stroke: Esther Austin (St Anne’s)
Cox: Tara Slade (St Peter’s)
The Presidents' challenge
is covered in a video now.
Oxford won the men's toss
and they also chose Surrey. That has been the winning play for the last few years.
Analysis of the toss
Qasa Alom doing the jolly bits for the BBC, he's with Kyra Edwards and Dame Katherine Grainger, who tells him: "Interesting call at the toss. The weather is changing hour by hour."
Here's the toss for the women
Oxford call heads, it is tails. Cambridge choose the Surrey station.
is the umpire. "We could see some rough conditions. Gusts of up to 40mph. I would choose the Middlesex station just in case the winds get up."
a winner last year tells the BBC that he slipped a disc two week before the race last year, got through it, and then had a month in bed and surgery. Jeez. Tough lad.
is on BBC duty, he's got a broken wrist after tripping over a rowing machine! Ow.
Clare's BBC guests
Are Andrew Triggs Hodge and Grace Prendergast. Grace, an Olympic gold medal winner and former rowing blue, says: "The event is for the people on the bank."
Triggs Hodge says: "it is a stand alone event and totally different from Olympic rowing."
says the weather could be a factor, and "we have seen in the past that these boats do not cope well when they take on water."
Last year's events were dramatic
Oxford win first men's Boat Race in four years as 'aggressive coxing' accusations follow Cambridge women's victory
and there was also the small matter of the sweary cox.
BBC forced to apologise for Cambridge cox's foul language
Good afternoon and welcome to our coverage of the Boat Races
It's an overcast and grey day here in the nation's capital and there are showers around, although the forecast is for those to have been and gone by the time the Boat Races between Oxford and Cambridge start. The women's boat race is at 4pm and then the men at 5pm.
As always there are plenty of stories around, for instance with the Parish brothers in the Cambridge boat. Jasper coxed the Cambridge women to victory last year and now gets a chance in the men's boat, where he will join his brother Ollie. Their dad Matthew Parish was a Cambridge rowing Blue and represented Great Britain at the 1996 Olympics.
Here' a nice piece from m'colleague Jim White about the lads.
‘I win every fight – but he thinks he’s smarter than me’: The little and large brothers chasing Boat Race glory
Family dinners at the Parish household are not the most straightforward. While Ollie eats mountains of carbs to fuel his intense rowing training, Jasper sticks to lettuce to ensure he doesn't gain even a pound in weight.
Ollie weighed in at 14 stone 6llb (91.6kg) ahead of the race, Jasper clocked in at just over nine stone (59.2kg).
“We have different physiologies,” says Jasper. “But over the years we’ve grown ever further apart weight wise. Ollie has to eat quite a bit more food than me. And the gap is getting more extreme by the day.”
BBC viewers might remember Wee Jasper from last year, a right little potty mouth. All sorts of big boy language during the race and the BBC had to apologise for his swears.
“He got a bit sweary last year,” says Ollie of his brother. “They had to apologise on the BBC.” “Yeah,” admits Jasper. “It was never my goal to swear on live TV. But it did happen. I am aware of the microphone, but I’m not going to let it influence my calling of the race."
On the subject of coxes: steering the Oxford men’s eight will be a woman, and the coxswain of the Cambridge women is a man. That's James Trotman, a first year Economics undergraduate at Sidney Sussex College for Cambridge women.
Anna O’Hanlon, who is doing a masters in Clinical Embryology at Somerville College will cox the Oxford men.