Tuesday, May 30, 2023
HomeWorldOxford v Cambridge: boat races – live

Oxford v Cambridge: boat races – live

Key events

In general, the faster water is in the middle where the river is deeper, but I guess Parish felt it choppy enough to find joy on the edge, and from co-comms we learn that this was an extremely maverick move. But his crew lead by almost a length and look to be moving smoothly, whole Oxford are at full tilt.

Oxford plough on, the bigger, more powerful crew bousting into the headwind. This looks like being a closer contest than the women’s race as Cambridge move right over towards Craven Cottage – bold move by Jasper Parish – and it works! His team edge in front, Oxford follow them over, and might that be a crucial call?!

Cambridge shoot out of the gate and are warned immediately as he boats close together. There’s some serious speed getting up here, Cambridge again warned to move away, and Oxford now lead by half a length.

Both coxes have a hand up, presumably unhappy with the angle at which their boats sits. Cambridge are ready, Oxford are ready, and OFF WE GO!

“Lovely tissue-culture montage there,” says Bill Preston. “Seriously skilled work. As ever, I’ll be supporting the Oxford, they are going to get a stomp on and pull out the thrilling heroics to win by half a length.”

The teams are ready; Cambridge are now favourites…

Blazer and Barbour action.

Boat race spectators in blazers and Barbours
Photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters

The Cambridge rudder issue seems to have been sorted. Hopefully we’ll get away on time at 5pm BST.

The Cambridge crew reckon they’ve got the right balance of work and fun this term, after not quite nailing it last. We watch footage of them training, which looks the opposite of fun.

The crews carry their boats down to the river as we learn that one of them may have a rudder issue. I think it’s Cambridge – ah yes, it is – but it’s being sorted. You won’t want to attack four-odd miles on the river without faith in the equipment.

Helen Glover, double Olympic champ in the coxless pair, has just announced that she’ll be going for another title in Paris. She didn’t discover rowing until she was 21, her suitability for it discovered by a talent ID programme, and now look!

Other siblings: Jasper Parish, the Cambridge cox – whose women’s crew won last term – now steers the men’s team, one of whom is is his older brother, Ollie.

We watch a bit of VT telling us that rowing, often the preserve of public schools, is being taken to kids from other backgrounds who are learning about teamwork, discipline and such.

I did not know that the race sponsor, Gemini, is owned by the Winklevoss twins – better know as the Winklevii – who rowed for Oxford in 2010 boat race and represented USA at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Our teams for the men’s race

Cambridge: Bow: Matt Edge (St Catharine’s), Brett Taylor (Queens’), Noam Moulle (Hughes Hall), Seb Benzecry (Jesus), Thomas Lynch (Hughes Hall), Nick Mayhew (Peterhouse), Ollie Parish (Peterhouse)

Stroke: Luca Ferraro (King’s)

Cox: Jasper Parish (Clare)

Oxford: Bow: James Forward (Pembroke), Alex Bebb (St. Peter’s), Freddy Orpin (St. Catherine’s), Tom Sharrock (Magdalen), James Doran (Oriel), Jean-Philippe Dufour (Lincoln), Tassilo von Mueller (Hertford)

Stroke: Felix Drinkall (Wolfson)

Cox: Anna O’Hanlon (Somerville)

Righto, the men’s race gets under way in 23 minutes. So…

The Cambridge team hold their cox aloft then enjoy further, chozzing champers out of the bottle. I daresay they’ll celebrate well tonight.

Sara Helin of Oxford is proud of her team and notes that the course changed a lot during the race so it was never clear what to expect. I think they knew just as well as we did.

Caoimhe Dempsey, the Cambridge president and sole survivor from last year, is proud of her team, saying their cox is very competitive and pushed them through. She says that the team is comprised of different characters from different programmes, and the personalities mesh well.

Decent moment.

cambridge celebrate
Photograph: Peter Cziborra/Action Images/Reuters

Looking back, I reckon Oxford knew they were overmatched, which is why they went out hard – they knew that if they were going to win it, they’d have to win it from the front. And once Cambridge went by, there was no prospect of anything changing.

“Cambridge won both of the lightweight races last weekend,” emails Andrew Benton, “so even if it’s one apiece today, Cambridge will come out on top by a large margin.”

“They may be rowing into the wind, but not against the tide,” says Glen Betton. “The races are timed to take advantage of the incoming flood tides which help push the boats westwards up the river to Mortlake.”

Interesting, I’m sure BBC said that cone around the corner, the teams would be rowing against the tide; please be very aware, I’d never have drawn my own conclusions.

The victorious Cambridge team recuperate as we see footage of them crossing their line, Trotman standing on his seat – that’s decent balance from him, and he does well not to end up in the drink.

Tara Slade has a hand up and is presumably objecting to Cambridge cutting in front when a length ahead, but the appeal is swiftly dismissed as there was no contact. And from that point, the difference between the teams was so obvious there’s no real point for Oxford to argue.

Cambridge win the women’s Boat Race for the sixth time in a row!

That was a proper hiding!

CAmbridge win the women's boat race.
Cambridge triumph! Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Action Images/Reuters

There’s pain etched into Cambridge faces as their boat glides serenely across the water, Chiswick Bridge now in view. Tara Slade, the Oxford cox, tries everything to inspire her team to the superhuman, reminding them off all they’ve sacrificed, but a sixth straight win is there for the Light Blues!

This isn’t easy for Cambridge but they’re making it look so, so smooth in the stroke and four lengths ahead coming around the final bend. There’s not a chance Oxfrod catch them.

The teams are both at 34 strokes per minute as we near Barnes Bridge – it’s just that Cambridge’s are more powerful or, put another way, they are better at suffering.

Cambridge power yet further clear, James Trotman the cox calling his team on. “Two-and-a-half lengths,” he says. “Good Cambridge”; his counterpart, meanwhile, lies that there’s a way back in it for his crew, when the Light Blues tire.

The Oxford team are being told that their opponents have gone off too hard, but as the lead increases to three or four lengths, it’s hard to see a way for them. The close-ups suggest they’re the tireder team, and their only chance now is if the Light Blues collapse.

Women and girls at the moment: Cambridge punish Oxford, stretching away and increasing pressure with every stroke. There’s still a fair way to go, but things already look desperate for the Dark Blues!

Cambridge are warned again, I think for cutting in front, but they lead and now the boats are one in front of the other; Cambridge are ordered to move away and do, but still lead by a length and half.

Cambridge (left) and Oxford in action during the women's race.
Cambridge (left) and Oxford in action during the women’s race. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA

We’re about a quarter of the way through the race and Cambridge still lead, by half a length now, as Matt Smith, the umpire, orders the crews to stay apart; the Light Blues are warned.

The crews are close together now – not quite so close blades can clash, but not far off. We see that the Cambridge cox’s heart-rate is miles above resting, which tells us how nervous he must be feeling, but he communicates composure to his team, and Cambridge lead by a quarter of a length.

As we move around the new stand at Fulham, the crews prepare for rowing against the tide into a headwind. Oxford lead, but by very little. Who knocked out Hull this year?

But now it’s Cambridge forging in front past Craven Cottage, and the river looks very lively indeed – though should get more so.

Oxford look to have got away better, but there’s not much between the crews as we depart Putney Bridge.


…nervous moments…

The teams are ready to go…

Both teams seem to have some really nice camaraderie going on. I’m sure that’ll serve them well as the muscles burn, but which will handle the pressure better?

You River Wantsum?!

Jasper Parish, the Cambridge University Boat Club cox, and Anna O’Hanlon, the Oxford University Boat Club cox, face off.
Jasper Parish, the Cambridge University Boat Club cox, and Anna O’Hanlon, the Oxford University Boat Club cox, face off. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Our teams for the women’s race

Cambridge: Bow: Carina Graf (Emmanuel), Jenna Armstrong (Jesus), Rosa Millard (Trinity Hall), Alex Riddell-Webster (Murray Edwards), Claire Brillon (Fitzwilliam), Freya Keto St (Edmund’s), Isabelle Bastian (Jesus)

Stroke: Caoimhe Dempsey (Newnham)

Cox: James Trotman (Sidney Sussex)

Oxford: Bow: Laurel Kaye (Worcester), Claire Aitken (Oriel), Sara Helin (St. Peter’s), Ella Stadler (Exeter), Alison Carrington (Hertford), Freya Willis (Magdalen), Sarah Marshall (Jesus)

Stroke: Esther Austin (St Anne’s)

Cox: Tara Slade (St Peter’s)

Also going on:

The presidents talk about their role in setting standards, managing personalities and feeling the history. I trust that much of this is considered on sticky dancefloors, strawpedoing alcopops.

As challengers, Oxford Women call – heads – and Cambridge do too, but only one is operative. So when tails shows, Cambridge pick and go for the Surrey Station, which might give them the advantage coming around the bend at Hammersmith. Oxford Men win the men’s toss, and they go for Surrey too, though the BBC’s expert favours Middlesex.

James Cracknell is riverside, and explains that he recently broke his wrist tripping over a rowing machine. Dangerous sport.

What I love about rowing is seeing a team perform the exact-same action in sync – there’s something therapeutically hypnotic about that, especially in a close race, in which the lead changes with each stroke. That, and its presence in Daley Thompson’s Supertest on the Spectrum+3.

The weather is still orrible, by the way – windy, grey, and with rain a distinct possibility. It was worse earlier, but there’s no reason why we can’t recapture those heights.

Caoimhe Dempsey removes her wellies before the start of the women's race.
Caoimhe Dempsey removes her wellies before the start of the women’s Boot race. I’m here all week etc etc. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA

BBC’s coverage is about to start, so we’ll drop in on that to bring you all the buildup.


It’s an absolutely munting day in London or, in other words, an absolutely perfect day for the Boat Race. Over the course of mornings, terms and years, our teams will have got up at all sorts of evil hours and in all sorts of disgraceful weather to tank up and down the Cam and Thames, inspired by the hope of being picked for this contest. Well, here we are.

Last year, Cambridge won the women’s event by two-and-a-quarter lengths and are big favourites to repeat their success this time. Meantime, in the men’s competition, Oxford took the 2022 honours by an identical margin and are expected to do so again in 2023.

But of course, there’s plenty that can go wrong messing about on the river in a race that is no stranger to upset, and either way, the elderly among us get to enjoy the sight of young people suffering for our entertainment. Welcome to British Summer Time!

Women’s race: 4pm BST

Men’s race: 5pm BST

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