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Cambridge do Boat Race double as Oxford men hit by E.coli virus

Triumphant again: Cambridge University (L) beat Oxford University in the women's Boat Race on London's River Thames (HENRY NICHOLLS)
Triumphant again: Cambridge University (L) beat Oxford University in the women's Boat Race on London's River Thames (HENRY NICHOLLS)

Cambridge won both the men's and women's University Boat Races on Saturday, with a member of the losing Oxford men's crew revealing afterwards that he and some of his crew-mates had been struck down by the E.coli virus just hours before taking the water.

The Light Blues were dominant in both events on a flat River Thames course in sunny conditions, the men winning for the fifth time in six editions and the women recording their seventh victory in a row.

The build-up to this year's races, featuring competing crews from England's two oldest universities, was overshadowed by the publication of research revealing high levels of E.coli, a bacteria found in human waste, in the Thames.

Meanwhile, London's Metropolitan Police said officers had acted "to prevent what could have resulted in serious disruption" to the races, arresting four people.

The force said it learned in the build-up to the annual showpiece of plans by protesters to potentially disrupt it, and officers then took "swift action... to intervene".

Two people were arrested for being equipped to lock on to an object near the race while two men were also detained for gluing themselves to Chiswick Bridge.

The races passed off without any interruption. They have been previously targeted. In 2012 demonstrator Trenton Oldfield swam in front of both teams' boats, and was ultimately jailed for six months.

- 'Go down badly' -

And after the men's race, some of the focus remained on the E.coli issue.

Oxford's Lenny Jenkins said he and several of his crew-mates had gone down with E.coli on the morning of the event.

"This is in no way to take away from Cambridge –- we've had a few guys go down pretty badly with the E.coli strain," he said.

"This morning I was throwing up and I wasn't sure if there was going to be a chance of me being in the boat, but I ultimately kept that quiet and that's on my shoulders."

He added: "That's not to take it away from Cambridge. They are a talented crew and I don't know if we would have had a chance to get them even if we were on form. So it's in no way to make excuses."

The crews came close to clashing blades early on before the smoother rhythm of Cambridge saw them start to pull clear and they were more than 10 seconds ahead going into the closing stages.

But they did begin to slow as stroke Matt Edge, a former lightweight rower, started to show signs of physical exhaustion towards the end of the race.

Although he was clearly struggling to get his blade in the water, Edge kept going and Oxford were too far back to capitalise on his collapse.

- 'Bump' warning -

"Credit to Matt to go that deep," Cambridge president (captain) Seb Benzecry told the BBC after a win that have the Light Blues an overall lead of 87 victories to 81, with one dead heat, in a race first staged in 1829.

"I'm sure a lot of that margin we took early in the race was him. He was putting down such a dynamic rhythm and that takes a lot out of you in the stroke seat. So proud of him."

Earlier, Cambridge's women overcame a blistering start by Oxford.

The Dark Blues tried to 'bump' Cambridge 12 minutes into the race, thinking the Light Blues were in their water.

Oxford were warned after almost colliding with their opponents and went on to lose their appeal after the race was finished.

Their unsuccessful move on the river disrupted Oxford's rhythm, with the use of the rudder slowing progress.

Suddenly, what had been a close contest saw Cambridge pulling clear by several lengths.

Oxford made a post-race protest but umpire Richard Phelps, following several minutes' discussion with losing cox Joe Gellett, ruled the Dark Blues had moved out of their station and refused the appeal.

This was the 78th edition of the women's race, with Cambridge now leading Oxford by 48 wins to 30.

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