Boat Race: Bowden's boys play fast and loose
Oxford coach enjoys 10th victory after his crew keep tension to a minimum by blowing favourites Cambridge out of the water
Sunday 27 March 2011
Even in a two-horse race it does not always pay to back the favourite. Cambridge were 2-1 on with some bookmakers to win yesterday's Boat Race but the Light Blue crew were out-thought, out-manoeuvred and out-raced in a remarkable contest on the Tideway. Having taken the lead with a powerful surge in the second mile, Oxford's Dark Blues won by four lengths and 14 seconds, which in terms of this contest over four and a quarter miles is a handsome margin.
Oxford's 76th victory, which leaves them four behind Cambridge, was revenge for last year's defeat and a triumph for their coach, Sean Bowden. This was his 10th victory in the race, which puts him just two behind the record that is held by Dan Topolski. The tone was set when Isis, the Oxford reserve boat, easily beat Cambridge's Goldie.
Having trained for most of the week in glorious sunshine, the conditions were murkier but still perfect for racing, with only a light breeze. Bowden had changed the set-up of the Oxford crew to accommodate a "tandem rigging". In eight-man crews the oars usually alternate on either side of the boat, but Oxford had their No 4 and No 5 men, Ben Ellison and Karl Hudspith, rowing on the bow side. That meant the man at bow, Moritz Hafner, had his oar on the same side as Simon Hislop, the stroke.
Having won the toss, Oxford chose the Surrey station, despite the fact that they made the same decision when losing last year. Cambridge appeared to make the sharper start, stroking at a faster rate from the off, but for the first mile the two boats raced side by side. Oxford, who were warned as the two boats came close to each other as they passed Craven Cottage, made their big push as they approached Hammersmith Bridge and very quickly put clear water between themselves and their rivals. In barely a minute Oxford pulled two lengths clear. Thereafter they continued to extend their advantage.
Hislop said that he had sensed victory as early as the halfway point. At Chiswick Steps his crew led by three lengths and they kept forging ahead, even as Cambridge upped their stroke rate. Oxford seemed calm and composed and Cambridge soon had the look of a beaten crew.
Hislop, who had surgery for testicular cancer only 11 months ago, said: "They put up a good fight initially, but then we started inching away. Their start didn't scare us. We just consolidated what we were doing. After halfway it was really enjoyable.
"We had a big push just as the Surrey bend started. Sam, our cox, called a fantastic push, we jacked the race up and took really big chunks out of them. They couldn't come back from that. It was how we had planned it. We had one or two mantras. One of them was that every time we've been loose we've been fast and every time we've been tense we've been slow. We just went out there and we knew that we couldn't let the pressure get to us. We had to stay loose and that really paid off in the end."
Bowden coached Cambridge in the 1990s, when he made a losing debut before enjoying two victories. He has worked with Oxford since the turn of the century and he described his eighth victory with them as one of the most satisfying of his career. He said the seeds for victory had been sown in last year's defeat.
"We didn't have enough staying power last year so we modified our training and our testing to improve that and it worked," he said. "I'm delighted with the way the whole season has turned out."
Latest in Sport
Crystal Palace manager latest: Malky Mackay ruled out due to messy departure from previous club Cardiff
Sami Khedira to Arsenal: Midfield omitted from Real Madrid squad for Spanish Super Cup
David Gold furious after Carlton Cole parody account mocks up a picture of West Ham chairman as a suspect in the Madeleine McCann case
Manchester United's worst signings
Angel Di Maria latest: Manchester United target is Real Madrid's 'best player', says Diego Simeone
- 1 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 2 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 3 World peace? These are the only 11 countries in the world that are actually free from conflict
- 4 Nicki Minaj finally releases predictable 'Anaconda' video
- 5 James Foley 'beheading': Met police warn public watching murder video could be criminal offence
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish Independence Referendum: Salmond described as 'arrogant, ambitious and dishonest' by Scottish women
£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...
Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...
Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...
£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...