Cambridge double their double against Oxford in boat race

The four mile course, more than three times the length of a standard Olympic race, is one of the world's oldest amateur sporting events

Reuters
Published : 30 March 2024, 06:22 PM
Updated : 30 March 2024, 06:22 PM

Cambridge's men and women rowers secured the double against Oxford for a second year in a row in the university boat race on Saturday.

The four mile course, more than three times the length of a standard Olympic race, is one of the world's oldest amateur sporting events.

The week leading up to this year's race brought with it mounting concerns about inclement weather and alarming levels of bacterial contamination in the River Thames that hosts the annual event.

But the spring sunshine peeked through fluffy white clouds as the races kicked off on Saturday afternoon, with thousands of spectators lining the course that runs from Putney to Mortlake.

In the men's race, Cambridge took the lead early on, even as both teams were warned in the opening minutes for oar clashes.

The Cambridge crew emerged comfortably ahead soon after and ultimately held on even as stroke Matt Edge looked at the verge of collapse in the dying minutes of the race. The win is the university's fifth in the last six races.

"No one ever backed off for a single second," said Cambridge boat club president, Sebastian Benzecry, who rowed his last race on Saturday.

Oxford's women, widely touted as favourites to win this year, had a flying start but were overtaken in about 10 minutes and ultimately failed to turn the tide against Cambridge who went on to notch their seventh straight victory.

Oxford cox Joe Gellett appealed against the final result at the end of the women's race, contending that the Cambridge boat had got in their way mid-race.

But umpire Richard Phelps ultimately dismissed the claim on the basis that Oxford had instead drifted into Cambridge's station and bumped their boat.

Cambridge retains its dominance over Oxford, with 87-81 wins in the men's races, and 48-30 in the women's race.

E. COLI WORRIES

Neither the men or the women's teams dunked their cox into the Thames as is tradition, after data released earlier this week showed alarming levels of E. coli bacteria in the water, as sewage spills hit a record high in 2023.

Following the race, Oxford rower Leonard Jenkins told the BBC that some of his team mates had been ill with E. coli bacteria.

"It would be a lot nicer if there wasn't as much poo in the water. It's not to take away from Cambridge, as we may not have beaten them even if we were all on top form," the Oxford number seven said.

Rob Baker, the Cambridge coach, said his squad had been healthy.

His men's team cox, Ed Bracey, said he would not have minded going into the water. "We've been splashing around in that for weeks and weeks."

But Baker quickly interjected, noting that the university was heeding to precautionary advice.

"I know he would like to...but absolutely not," he said. "We'll throw a bucket of clean water over your head."