Cambridge University clean sweep of 2019 Boat Race
Cambridge University dominated this year’s Boat Races, winning both the men’s and women’s events against Oxford University over the 4 ¼ mile (6.8 km) upstream course on the River Thames in London.
In the men’s race, Cambridge won the toss for lanes in both races and chose the Surrey (southerly) station, giving them the advantage of the inside of the big Hammersmith bend which is a significant feature of the Championship Course.
Their multi-national crew in the men’s race included former junior world sculling champion and Rio Olympian Natan Wegrzycki-Szymczyk of Poland at stroke, with British double Olympic champion James Cracknell in the 2-seat.
Cracknell’s return to elite rowing at the age of 46 comes 14 years after he won gold in the British men’s four at the Athens 2004 Olympics. This made him the oldest rower ever to compete in the Boat Race.
Cambridge rated 47 strokes per minute off the start against Oxford at 45, and already had half a length lead past the boathouses which line Putney embankment. By this stage the crews had dropped their rates to 39 and 38.
Two minutes into the race there was high drama as the coxswains – Matthew Holland for Cambridge and Toby de Mendonca for Oxford – steered perilously close, with Ben Landis, the Oxford 2-seat, clashing his blade against the Cambridge opposition.
As umpire Rob Clegg warned Cambridge repeatedly they moved back on station, but their lead had been reduced by the encounter and less than half a length separated the crews at the first timing point after one mile.
Cambridge now developed a strong rhythm which saw them increase their lead at Hammersmith, the road bridge which crosses the course approaching halfway. Oxford tucked in behind the opposition but could not reduce the margin, which remained the same at Barnes, the second bridge over the course.
On only two occasions since 1950 has the losing crew at this point gone on to win the race, and 2019 was no different, with Cambridge hanging on to win by one length in 16 mins 57 secs.
Cambridge’s win was their first back-to-back victory for 20 years and they now lead Oxford by 84 races to 80 in the series which began in 1829.
“I was never worried they were going to come through – we built on the line and didn’t leave anything to chance. But I was happy that we were in a dominant position the whole way down” said coxswain Matthew Holland afterwards.
“These guys were just incredible – all nine of us – and everyone had absolute commitment to it,” added Cambridge President Dara Alizadeh.
Cambridge’s win in the women’s race was even more decisive. Although Oxford took a slight lead in the first 500m, they were then overhauled after two minutes and never saw the lead again.
A machine-like quality to their rhythm saw Cambridge build their margin right down the course, with eight seconds separating the two crews at the halfway mark. Clocking this time put the course record under threat.
But Oxford were beginning to tire, and with it went the pressure on the leaders, who were untroubled in taking a five-length victory in 18 mins 47 secs.