Boat Race triumph for Oxford's women and men
On a day that made rowing history Oxford University captured a clean sweep in the 2015 Oxford vs Cambridge Boat Races in London, Great Britain by winning both men’s and women’s events in dominating fashion.
The long-awaited move by the Women’s Boat Race to join the men on the same day, over the same stretch of the River Thames, meant bigger crowds than ever to witness the event. Raced in eights the women went first in the head-to-head Boat Race style.
Both Oxford and Cambridge universities boated crews containing junior and under-23 world medallists, but the most decorated athlete of both the men and women was Caryn Davies of the United States. The double Olympic Champion who stroked the US women’s eight to gold at the Beijing and London Olympics, stroked the Oxford University women's eight to a solid victory.
As the bookmakers predicted, the Oxford women forged into an early lead over the 6780m upstream course between Putney and Mortlake. This was a big distance increase as the Women's Boat Race previously covered just 2000m. Less than 1500m into the race, Oxford already had a clear water advantage at which stage the race rules meant they were allowed to cross into their opponents water. This denied Cambridge of the chance to use the inside of the big bend at the halfway mark.
Oxford pulled away to win by 6 ½ lengths in a time of 19 minutes 45 seconds.
“To row on the same stage as the men, especially as there were so many women before us who have never had this opportunity, is extremely humbling, " said the Oxford president, Anastasia Chitty, after the race. "We started moving away early on and kept ourselves ahead.”
“It played out pretty much as we had hoped – what I did not expect was how long it would be and how much it would hurt!” said Davies.
The fine weather which had brought out the crowds, estimated to be around 270,000, was tempered by a stiff south-westerly wind which made conditions difficult for the second part of the course, as Cambridge University found out in the men’s race.
After a scrappy start, which allowed Oxford to lead by ¼ length in the first minute, Cambridge got into their stride. For the next eight minutes there was never more than a second between the crews, until they rounded the big bend, where the wind met the incoming tide.
Oxford made the best of the rough conditions and increased the pressure while maintaining a rate of 35 strokes a minute. After a sustained effort they drew clear of Cambridge and the race was all but over.
Oxford went on to win by 6 lengths in a time of 17 minutes 34 seconds.
The win by the Oxford men marked a third consecutive win for the university, led by their President Constantine Louloudis, who earned his fourth Boat Race success. The reigning World Champion stroke from the British men’s eight, Louloudis now joins an elite group of just 14 men who have won four Boat Races since the event’s foundation in 1829. The last man to do was Boris Rankov, who notched up a record six wins during his student days and who umpired Saturday’s contest for the fourth time.
“We stuck to our plan really well in that head wind ," said Louloudis afterwards. "Our mantra was ‘be steely’ and we did that - we came through.”
Copy thanks to Robert Treharne Jones