Cambridge's victory in the 156th Boat Race on Saturday again showed that it is now the norm for it to be a competition for the full four-and-a-quarter-mile course rather than being decided by who reaches Hammersmith Bridge, about a third of the distance, first.
During the last 20 years the cusp of the race has shifted to the stretch along the big Surrey bend in the vicinity of Chiswick Eyot. On Saturday it was there that the trailing Cambridge crew – on the Middlesex station – began to creep up on Oxford, knowing that the bend to Barnes would soon favour them. They relentlessly advanced on Oxford until their bow ball showed in front for the first time near the bandstand in Dukes Meadow.
Oxford clung on, moving back on the Light Blues after Barnes Bridge where Cambridge had a bit of a wobble. Stroke Fred Gill was in trouble for a stroke, either fumbling with his oar handle or missing to catch the water. The winning verdict of a length and a third, or four seconds, is close and the clear water between the boats appeared very late in the day.
This gruelling battle was again a testament to the quality of rowing, the physical fitness and mental tenacity that these clubs produced under Sean Bowden (Oxford) and Chris Nilsson (Cambridge). Bowden's record for coaching Oxford is seven wins out of 12. This victory came as a relief to New Zealander Nilsson, his first win in year two of his three-year contract.
When Sir Steve Redgrave presented Cambridge with the Xchanging trophy, they received a little bit of Oxford with it. The cup has two lids, but the Cambridge version with a lion as its handle has been mislaid, so the lid with an ox handle had to be used.