On paper there was little to choose between the two crews, despite Oxford being the bookmakers’ favourites. Oxford had the marginal weight advantage of 2.6kg per man, as well as Olympic experience in the stern pair. At stroke was the Canadian silver medallist Malcolm Howard, while behind him in the seven seat was the stroke of the British Olympic eight, Constantine Louloudis.

But it was Cambridge who boated the more multi-national crew with the majority of their athletes from Australia and the United States. The club president, Olympic bronze medallist George Nash, was one of only two Britons on board, while the Czech Republic was represented for the first time in the race by the veteran Milan Bruncvik in the three seat.

Oxford won the toss to choose which side of the river Thames to start on in this head-to-head race.  They chose the Surrey station, the more southerly of the two lanes that wind up the historic S-shaped 6.8km course on the river Thames between the London suburbs of Putney and Mortlake.

Despite Cambridge going off at the higher rate of 49 strokes a minute, it was Oxford at 47 who took the early lead, and as both crews began to settle at 36 the coxswains steered perilously close round the first of the right hand bends.

The umpire, four-time Olympic champion Sir Matthew Pinsent, himself a veteran of three Boat Races from 1990-93, was kept busy separating the crews, but despite a brief clash of blades neither crew gained an advantage.

Oxford reached the first timing point at the mile (1.6km), ¼ length ahead and then began to increase their lead, but Cambridge increased the rate to 37 strokes a minute and came back as the crews approached the first bridge across the course at Hammersmith.

Oxford repeatedly tried to break clear but Cambridge responded each time, maintaining the overlap with the leaders until the crew reached the timing point at Chiswick Steps 4.5km into the race.

Knowing that the final bend would favour Cambridge, Oxford pushed on hard and, after going more than  a length clear, were allowed to cross into their opponents’ water. Despite a spirited finish by Cambridge rating 37, Oxford crossed the line four seconds clear in 17 mins 28 secs.

“That was really tough, I had nothing left on the finish line, I was just hanging on for the last five minutes – absolute credit to them,” said Olympic bronze medallist Louloudis.

Oxford University also won the four Henley Boat Races, the event which includes the Newton Women’s Boat Race as well as the Lightweight Races for men and women and the Women’s Reserves Boat Race. All four were raced the weekend prior and, because of high river levels, were moved from their traditional course on the Thames at Henley to be raced at the 2000m Eton-Dorney Olympic regatta course.

Also umpired by Matthew Pinsent, the Newton Women’s Boat Race opened with Cambridge University in the lead, but Oxford overtook at halfway, making better work of the rough water conditions.

The Newton Women’s Boat Race will now be staged for one more year as part of the Henley event, before moving in 2015 to be raced on the same day, over the same course, as the Men’s Boat Race.

For full results: http://theboatrace.org/