Oxford recorded their fourth win in years in the annual Boat Race as they made good on their status as clear pre-race favourites. The Dark Blues, who had several Olympic and world medallists on-board, were put at 2/5 to win before the race and dominated proceedings to finish just over a boat length clear of their rivals from Cambridge.
Much of the build-up to the 163rd staging of the Boat Race was focused around the intense rivalry between the two crews, spiked by the fact that Oxford bow-man William Warr previously competed for Cambridge in 2015. However, the on-water rivalry failed to materialise as the Dark Blues took control.
Oxford got the better of the two starts, drawing away from the stake-boat to establish an early advantage. As the crews wound around the Fulham bend, where Cambridge’s advantage on the Middlesex station was estimated at around 1/3 of a length, Oxford drew out to around three quarters of a boat length lead. Cambridge, who had the tallest man ever to row in the Boat Race, James Letten, sat at three, dug in resolutely as the two boats navigated the first bend in the course.
The Boat Race is often decided on small margins and the decisions coxes make have a profound impact on the narrative of the contest. Hugo Ramambason, in his first year steering the Cambridge Blue Boat, tried to minimise the margin between his crew and Oxford by steering towards his opponents just before the Harrods Depository. A slight clash ensued, out of which Oxford emerged the better and drew away to a length as the crews approached Hammersmith Bridge.
Around the vast Surrey Bend, of which Oxford had the inside line for, the latter continued to hold off repeated Cambridge pushes to maintain a small margin of clear water. Umpire Sir Matthew Pinsent tried to keep the two crews apart as they strayed from their lines but it had little impact on the direction of the race.
For those who have followed the development of this year’s race, the result will have come as no surprise. Oxford, superior in power and pedigree, delivered the performance that was expected of them. A fourth defeat in five attempts for Cambridge, and a long summer back at the drawing board beckons.