Oxford conquer the waves to win Boat Race

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Oxford took the 152nd Boat Race by storm yesterday, in a race where fortunes turned halfway between Hammersmith Bridge and Chiswick Eyot.

Winning the toss and choosing the Surrey station to give them the outside of the first bend opened the door for the Dark Blues, and being on the inside of the bend after Hammersmith, where the rough water hit the crews like a wall, closed the door behind them.

Cambridge were half a second ahead at the milepost and settling to a rhythm which kept them alongside Oxford up to Hammersmith. But the bend turned to Oxford's favour as they shot the bridge a second ahead.

From there the cox Seb Pearce forced Cambridge into more exposed water. Suddenly wind and waves engulfed the boats and both seemed to check.

There was no time for pretty rowing. In the words of Bastien Ripoll, Oxford's French stroke, "the key moment was along the island, in a washing machine."

The Dark Blues battled through this more effectively than the Light, and consolidated their lead in a window of calm water along Duke's Meadows. They had six seconds on Cambridge at Chiswick Steps and 11 at Barnes Bridge. The stuffing had been knocked out of Cambridge by conditions.

This was a second win for Barney Williams, Oxford's president. "We were pushed really hard," he said,praising his crew, "who put their school on the back burner despite the intensity of their studies. The commitment they put in really payed off."

He had particular praise for Jake Wetzel in the No 7 seat, his crew-mate in Canada's Olympic coxless four two years ago. "For two years he backed me up and in that four he covered my back every step of the way. I said to him before the race, 'I have your back'. He was a leader and he's a racer."

Tom Edwards, Cambridge's president, put a brave face on the defeat of a crew which critics ranked with the great Light Blue winners of the 1990s. "I've had two years of trying to win this race, and it didn't happen," he said. "All credit to Oxford, they took it to us in the toughest part of the race round Hammersmith. I was quite happy with our position in the crucial period at St Paul's, but we struggled in the conditions, and they dealt with the conditions better than us."

Oxford's French, British, and Canadian mixture beat a crew including the three Germans - Sebastian Thormann, Thorsten Engelmann and Sebastian Schulte - known as the Berlin Wall. "Sometimes machines break," said Ripoll. Oxford's coach, Sean Bowden, in his ninth race, earned praise, while Cambridge's Duncan Holland, in his first, received a sobering baptism.

152nd Boat Race: Oxford beat Cambridge by 5 lengths; 18 min 26 sec. Intermediate times (Oxford first) - Mile: 3.45.5; 3.45; Hammersmith Bridge: 6.42, 6.43; Chiswick Steps: 10.56, 11.02; Barnes Bridge: 15.01, 15.12; Finish: 18.26, 18.41.

Reserves race: Goldie beat Isis by 4 and a quarter lengths, 19:09.