In the battle of the blues, Oxford proved victorious on the Tideway, winning both the historic boat race and the reserve race. Cambridge held strong but ultimately was defeated by the formidable Oxford University Boat Club after a controversial clash left them in the after wash of the Oxford crew.
On a cloudy, rainy day at the Tideway, Oxford added two more wins to its arsenal, charging through the course in 18 minutes 36 seconds – 11 lengths ahead of the Cambridge crew. This came after the crews held relatively even heading under the Hammersmith Bridge when the 2 seat of Cambridge, Luke Juckett, clashed with the 7 seat, Sam O’Connor, of Oxford. Cambridge appealed the decision, but to no avail.
“A contact between blades, boat or person is a legal foul. I think their view was when that foul occurred, Oxford were not in their proper station and therefore Cambridge were victims … of a legal foul by Oxford. Oxford were on their proper station quite clearly. I warned them. He moved. For there to be contact, it could only have been in mutual water or at worse, Cambridge were off their station,” said ruling umpire, Richard Phelps.
“I don’t know if they will ever accept that result. I told them I was overruling their appeal and my advice was that they congratulate the winner, which the president then clearly did. It is final now. There is nothing which I’m aware of which would cause me to reopen that decision, ” he said.
Cambridge was naturally disappointed with the result. For Joshua Hooper, in Cambridge’s 7 seat, it was an unexpected loss.
“It’s disappointing but that’s how it turns out to be. We had an awesome pattern and an awesome rhythm going. We had a breakage and a clash, and once a crew is out in front, obviously it’s a huge challenge to try to get it back,” he said.
But unfortunately for the light blues, his expectations were not to be realized.
“We were feeling really good. I definitely thought we were in there for the win. It’s a really frustrating thing and it’s not fun losing this way. It’s a fantastic race. There’s a lot of history behind it and it’s awesome being part of it. We put in a lot of time and effort and obviously it demands a lot of your time and you want to win and that’s the challenge at hand."
“We’re absolutely gutted,” said Ivo Dawkins of Cambridge’s 3 seat. “We’re devastated. It’s a hard loss.”
While the results remain a center of debate and devastation for Cambridge, Oxford had reason to celebrate. Oxford University Boat Club President, Malcolm Howard, was sanguine about the controversy.
“The unfortunate thing about a clash is that it’s a lottery. It could have gone one way or the other. We’d watched some races that had gone that way in the past week. We knew we might have to brace ourselves. The last person in the world you ever want to clash with is Sam O’Connor,” he said.
But he does not believe it would have changed Oxford’s fate.
“I think we were going through a really good spell there. I don’t think it would have changed the result –no,” he said. “I think we were in a strong position when it happened. We were in that race. They threw a lot at us at the start but we withstood it. We were coming really well into our rhythm. That was a really strong stretch for us and we were moving when it happened."
And naturally Oxford had reason to be proud of their dominant performance.
“Of course I‘m happy. I couldn’t be prouder of this whole crew,” Howard said.
Oxford came into the race with substantially more international experience despite Cambridge’s size advantage. Many of the winning crew intend to continue their international rowing careers in next year’s boat race and beyond.
“I’m going to trial for the national team with a long term view of going to the Rio Olympics,” said Oxford stroke seat and vice-president, Constantine Louloudis. “I’ve got one more year. I’ve done three years, and I’ve got one more to go. I’m trying to balance both at the moment. I want to give both as much attention as I can, but while I’m at Oxford, I‘ve got the national team commitments that have to come second to some degree. I’m looking forward to a new challenge, but I’m going to enjoy this one for now.”
The Reserve Boat race between Oxford’s Isis and Cambridge’s Goldie crews also proved frustrating for the Cambridge Club, with Oxford winning with a time of 18 minutes 39 seconds and an even greater distance of 13 lengths. This marks the fourth consecutive year that Isis has won the reserve race, bringing the tally to 29 wins for Cambridge ahd 20 wins for Oxford.
After a hard day of battling it out on the Tideway, Cambridge stands to face a tough evening of reflection after two losses and months of training. They fought hard and gave it their all, but in the words of Joshua Hooper, “You either win or lose and that’s it.”