Dark Blues complete a clean sweep.
Oxford won the toss and chose the Surrey station
The weather for the 159th Boat Race and the first to be sponsored by BNY Mellon was in stark contrast to the majority of the previous month and while still cold with a few light flurries of snow there was only a light SE wind, making for excellent racing conditions.
Both crews boasted Olympians and returning Blues. Oxford's Constantine Louloudis won Bronze in the GB VIII at London 2012 while in front of him at stroke was another man from the same Olympic final, Malcolm Howard, he won a silver in that one but a Gold in the same event four years earlier. Cambridge's GB Olympian and President George Nash boasted a Bronze from 2012 while crew mate Milan Bruncivik, the first Czech to race in a Blue Boat rowed at the last two Games.
The Light Blues international line up of four Americans and two Australians plus Nash and Bruncivik had looked strong but not as neat as the Dark Blues in the build-up, facing some tough challenges from Molesey Boat Club and especially from the students of University of Washington. Oxford on the other hand looked to have a strong rhythm and had demolished a very fast German national eight earlier in the month. So as the race started it was the Dark Blues who were the bookies favourites.
Off the start Oxford at 48 strokes per minute went into an early lead, slipping into their solid rhythm to pull out a ½ length lead by the time the crews passed the Town Buoy. But this was a tenacious Cambridge crew as we would see throughout the race. Cox Henry Fieldman who knows this stretch of river so well kept a tight line and by Barn Elms his crew had pulled the Oxford lead back to 1/3 length.
Both crews earned themselves warnings from first time umpire Sir Matthew Pinsent as neither could make a decisive break and interweaving oars came very close to clashing. But Oxford kept solid, their calmness helping them to creep a little further ahead of their opposition. The Mile Post was reached in a time of 3 mins 46 seconds where Cambridge continued to harry Oxford but to no avail as the Dark Blues held a ¾ length lead.
Cambridge kept the lead to ¾ length at Harrods and put in a big push to try and counteract the Dark Blues advantage around the long Surrey bend. Reaching Hammersmith Bridge in a time of 6 minutes 51 seconds Oxford fended off the push but still couldn’t make the decisive break.
Passing St. Paul’s, Chiswick Eyot and as far as Chiswick Steps the distance didn’t change but it was here that Oxford cox Oskar Zorilla pressed the accelerator urging Howard in the stroke seat to break Cambridge once and for all. Howard and his crew responded taking their chunky rhythm up two pips to move away from Cambridge along Corney Reach.
Oxford now with clear water between themselves and the Light Blues moved across onto the Middlesex station, washing their opposition down enabling them to cancel out any advantage Cambridge may have had from the bend.
By Barnes Bridge the Oxford lead was just under two lengths and despite the efforts of Niles Garratt in the Cambridge stroke seat they couldn’t get back on terms, with Oxford’s lead at the finish 1 1/3 lengths in a time of 17 minutes 28 seconds.
Afterwards Constantine Louloudis called it “one hell of a race” while Zorilla expressed what most pundits thought, that their “indestructible, devastating rhythm” was decisive. Sean Bowden their coach with his 11th Boat Race win under his belt expressed his pleasure with his crew, especially their technical rowing in the last third of the race.
Cambridge President George Nash was magnanimous saying that Oxford “put in one too many moves that we couldn’t answer,” while coach Steve Trapmore said that his crew had put in a “valiant effort” but he was “devastated not to win.”
Oxford’s win completed a clean sweep for the Dark Blues this year having won the Isis/Goldie race, The Women’s Boat Race and Reserve Race plus the Men’s and Women’s Lightweight Races.