Rowing: Women turn Thames a lighter shade of blue

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By Hugh Matheson

THE Cambridge women found the sunshine was an ally in turning the Thames at Henley a lighter shade of blue in the women's Boat Race yesterday.

In near-perfect spring conditions, Cambridge led from the first stroke and moved out to a half-length lead at the end of the first minute. From there, consistently rating one stroke to the minute higher than the Dark Blues, Cambridge held Oxford at arms' length throughout the middle of the course.

Cambridge never looked vulnerable, overcoming the apparent handicap of leaving Lucy de las Casas in the No 5 seat after she had spent the last week and the race itself with her wrist in plaster after a bicycle crash. Oxford held on gamely until a final flourish by the Light Blues along the island gave them a winning margin of one and a quarter lengths.

Oxford's solace of the afternoon was the third victory in 15 years of their lightweight women. Oxford this time got off more quickly and had a quarter-length lead in the first minute.

They were unable to build this advantage to more than two-thirds of a length and hung on over the last minute along the island and, after the photo-finish was examined, were given the verdict by a canvas.

The lightweight men's race went to Cambridge by half a length. Again the Light Blues rated more strokes to the minute for most of the course and were able to hold off a strong Oxford challenge as both crews came back on station after a wide detour past the barrier. Cambridge pushed the rate up to 39 and Oxford, stuck on 37.5, were unable to come back on terms.

Leander, with the hard core of the men's national squad at their disposal, won the Tideway Head of the River race on Saturday, with an 11-second margin over a London Rowing Club crew drawn from the lightweight national squad.

Leander, stroked by Matthew Pinsent and backed up by his fellow members of the world champion coxless four, Tim Foster, Steven Redgrave and Jim Cracknell, led off the nearly 4,000 rowers in 420 eights participating in the largest rowing event in the world, and rowed in a vacuum while London Rowing Club, starting third, had to tussle all the way with London University.