HTBS correspondent: London, Friday 25th March, 2011, 16.30: Oxford has won. This might surprise you as you may have thought that the Oxford–Cambridge Boat Race was starting 24 hours later. Correct – this was the 16th Oxford–Cambridge Veterans’ (Masters) Boat Race. It is run on a short course, Putney to just beyond Hammersmith Bridge. The rules say that the crews must be selected from full graduates of the University or from full Rowing Blues without that qualification. The average age of the crew must not be less than 42. This year, for the first time, two Olympic Gold Medallists took part (Jonny Searle and Matthew Pinsent) though seven of the contestants competed at the Atlanta Games in 1996. Olympians are in bold type.
The crews were level until the end of Putney Embankment when Oxford (losers for the last seven races) started to take the lead. Umpire Boris Rankov was kept busy and there was some clashing around the Mile Post (which Oxford reached in 3 minutes 47 seconds). The Dark Blue lead opened out and resulted in a four length victory in 7 minutes 24 seconds. The Cambridge cox appealed over the clash but six times Boat Race winner Rankov held that the Light Blues were at fault. Some would suggest that the coxes’ interpretation of Tideway navigation rules put them both at fault – but that would be churlish. The score now stands at Oxford 6, Cambridge 10.
Earlier in the day, I had followed the Cambridge morning outing from the Press Launch. If the Boat Race was a ‘paddling light’ competition, they would be that easy winners. However, the distinguished rowing historian and journalist, Chris Dodd, holds that this is almost always the case (a Cambridge friend once told me that rowing was better at the University because there was nothing else to do). Chris would not predict a result but Patrick Kidd of The Times newspaper says ‘Cambridge in under two lengths’. Perhaps the most predictable thing about race day is that the lovely weather we have been enjoying for the last few days will turn for the worst. It’s an English tradition even older than the Boat Race.