Boat Race clean sweep for Cambridge University
When Cambridge University won the Cancer Research UK men’s Boat Race in London on Saturday it sealed off a series of six wins for the first time in more than 20 years.
Not since 1993 had Cambridge won every boat race, for men and women, heavyweight and lightweight, as well as their reserve crews.
This year’s women’s Boat Race, held over the championship course from Putney to Mortlake for the fourth time since its move from Henley in 2015, was always destined to go in favour of Cambridge. Their four returning athletes included France’s Miriam Goudet-Boukhtami in seven-seat, while their experienced stroke Olivia Coffey, a World Champion in the United States women’s quadruple sculls in 2015 was all set to lay down an impressive rhythm for the crew.
Oxford women, still reeling from last year’s 11-length defeat, their first loss for five years, had only one returning crew member, while their coach, Andy Nelder, was marking his first year in charge, after moving across from Isis, the men’s reserve crew.
Off the start Oxford got their nose briefly in front before the superior power and length of Cambridge drew them ahead despite being on the outside of the first bend. Just 1200m into the race Cambridge went more than a length clear and were able to choose the best line around the big left hand bend that so often determines boat race victories.
Cambridge kept on the pressure, moving away to win by seven lengths, and now lead the series 43-30.
Forecasts for the men’s race were never as clear-cut, but Oxford’s decision to substitute one of their men less than a week before the race may have played its part. Josh Bugajski, a veteran of two Boat Races, went down with a stomach infection and was replaced by Benedict Aldous in training. Two days later Sean Bowden, the Oxford coach, confirmed that the boat was just as fast with the substitute and that Bugajski was out of the boat.
The two crews had an even start, with the Oxford stroke Felix Drinkall, a 2017 junior world gold medallist from Great Britain’s men’s four, driving his crew to a solid start. But once again the Cambridge length and power began to work in their favour, just as they had done for their women’s crew an hour earlier. As Oxford struggled to settle into an even rhythm Cambridge kicked in hard, went one length clear and crossed into Oxford’s water despite warnings by the umpire, John Garrett.
By the halfway mark it was all over, despite Oxford now having found their rhythm. Cambridge looked increasingly confident and relaxed, and kept the opposition firmly in their sights to win by three lengths.
“We’ve improved every day, because we knew they were going to be fast,” said Cambridge president, coxswain Hugo Ramambason.
For the Cambridge coach Steve Trapmore, an Olympic Champion in the 2000 British men’s eight, his crew’s win was especially sweet as he will shortly move to a new role with the British national team.
“Today is all about celebrating but tomorrow I’ll be packing things up and moving on, so it’s a little bit sad” he said.
Copy thanks to Robert Treharne Jones