Oxford's men win the 163rd boat race, Cambridge win women's

LONDON (Reuters) - Oxford won the 163rd University boat race on Sunday, beating Cambridge by more than a length in one of the longest running competitions in world sport.

The Oxford crew were favourites going into the race, first rowed in 1829, and secured the favoured Surrey side of the Thames where the long bend after Hammersmith Bridge worked in their favour.

There had been fears that the race could be called off because of the discovery of a World War II bomb in the river near the start at Putney Bridge on Saturday. But specialists safely removed the shell early on Sunday and both the men and women rowed in calm, sunny conditions.

By halfway down the 6.8km course between Putney and Mortlake in southwest London, the Oxford men's crew, 26 kg lighter than Cambridge, had opened clear water.

Cambridge made a last push after Barnes Bridge but could not catch their rivals who finished in 17 minutes.

Oxford's jubilant James Cook clambered down the boat after they crossed the line to embrace his brother Oliver, rowing further back.

"It's extremely special, there's a special bond rowing with your brother," James Cook told the BBC. "We did the job, we were clinical."

Cambridge won the earlier women's race in a record time of 18 minutes 34 seconds, dominating from the start after Oxford's Rebecca Esselstein committed an elementary mistake known as catching a crab and her crew could not make up the deficit.

(Reporting by Clare Lovell; editing by Brian Homewood)

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