Oxford's heavy crew hit back

Cambridge prove short of power as Dark Blues hold nerve to come from behind

Oxford won the 155th Boat Race yesterday in a storming race in which the Dark Blues made their decisive move on the outside of the great Surrey bend. It was Oxford's fourth win in the last five years.

Everything seemed to be running Cambridge's way at the start of the day when they won the toss and chose the Surrey station, just as their reserve crew Goldie had done half an hour beforehand. But as Cambridge sat on the stakeboat awaiting the start, Goldie reached the end at Mortlake four lengths behind Isis. This was an unexpected and ill omen.

Cambridge had some trouble getting straight and were slightly unsettled when umpire Boris Rankov yelled 'Go" They had a swift start nonetheless, and put their bow ball ahead along the boathouses in Putney Reach.

As expected, cox Rebecca Dowbiggin pushed Cambridge towards Middlesex and soon had Rankov at the semaphore, both crews being warned to keep apart after one minute, before he turned his admonition to first Oxford and then Cambridge. In two minutes Cambridge extended their lead to about a third of a length, but at the mile only half a second separated them, with Oxford ahead.

There were many warnings between the mile and Hammersmith Bridge as Cambridge stepped on the gas and pulled ahead by three quarters of a length as they swung into the great bend in their favour. Ante Kusurin, the Croatian in Oxford's stroke seat, was worrying at this point as the Light Blue blades disappeared from his view. Then, as the crews approached Chiswick Eyot, Rankov warned Cambridge just before Oxford's No 2, Colin Smith, muffed half a dozen strokes as his blade clashed with Cambridge No 7, Hardy Cubasch.

Dowbiggin and Oxford's Colin Groshong responded to Rankov's calls, but Oxford struck as they came out of the jousting that unsettled their opponents more than themselves. The Dark Blues, the heaviest crew in the race's 180-year history, upped the rate suddenly to 38 strokes per minute and leapt back into the race.

At Chiswick Steps, Oxford were two seconds in front, and then there was no stopping them. By the bandstand on the cusp of the Duke's Meadows bend Kusurin could see Cambridge more than two lengths behind him, and he drove on to set up the victory with a verdict of three and a half lengths. Kusurin said: "When I said 'Let's go" on the Surrey bend all the boys kicked in and we went through them."

Smith, Oxford's president, said: "The difference between the two crews was our power, aggression and stickability." Smith added: "I knew it would take a lot to break us. By choosing Surrey, Cambridge knew they had to win by half way, so as long as we hung in there, it was going to be tough for them physically and psychologically."

As is often the case when all the contestants are graduate students, both clubs must go back to the drawing board for the 156th Boat Race. The score is now Oxford 75, Cambridge 79, with one dead-heat.

Oxford: Bow M Plotkowiak, C Smith, A Hearne, B Harrison, S Hamburger, T Solesbury, G Bridgewater, stroke A Kusurin, cox C Groshing.

Cambridge: Bow R Weitemeyer, H Pelly, T Ransley, P Marsland, D McEachern, H Cubasch, R Monaghan, stroke S Stafford, cox R Dowbiggin.

Intermediate Times: Mile Oxford 3:34, Cambridge 3.34.5; Hammersmith Bridge Cambridge 6:28.2, Oxford 6:28.9; Chiswick Steps Oxford 10:17, Cambridge 10.19; Barnes Bridge Oxford 14:01, Cambridge 14:09. Oxford won by 3.5 lengths (Oxford 17 min 0sec, Cambridge 17min 12sec). Isis (17min 24sec) bt Goldie by 4 lengths.

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