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Page last updated at 15:05 GMT, Sunday, 29 March 2009 16:05 UK

Oxford triumph in 155th Boat Race

Oxford president Colin Smith celebrates with the Xchanging trophy
Oxford president Colin Smith celebrates with the Xchanging trophy

Favourites Oxford stormed to victory over Cambridge in the 155th Boat Race, winning by three-and-a-half lengths.

Cambridge, on the Surrey side, recovered from a poor start to lead by half a length two miles into the race.

But they could not take advantage of the sweeping middle bend and, after a clash of blades, Oxford powered clear.

"It's a great, great feeling," said Oxford president Colin Smith, who won Olympic silver in Beijing. "It's been a long and special journey to be here."

Oxford, featuring five Olympians and the heaviest crew in the history of the race, built their advantage in the second half of the race against a broken Cambridge crew to record a time of 17 minutes exactly.

At the end of the day, the stronger crew with the more power came through

Cambridge coach Chris Nilsson

It was their fourth win in the last five years and their seventh in the last 10.

"We stuck to a strong and aggressive strategy but Cambridge certainly came pretty close to making it their day," Smith added.

"I wasn't concerned, I think Cambridge are a fantastic crew and there were a few hairy moments, but all the way along I knew we had good strength and it would take a lot to break us."

The clash of blades came as Cambridge were calling a push, looking for a length of clear water with the bend about to move back in Oxford's favour.

For Cambridge coach Chris Nilsson, that was the crucial point.

"I don't think our boat ever really recovered from that. We lost our rhythm, missed a couple of strokes," he said.

"Oxford countered it and when they pushed, their push was that much stronger than ours.

"At the end of the day, the stronger crew with the more power came through."

Cambridge four man Peter Marsland, who will take part in Great Britain trials, did not believe he deserved a second defeat in his second and final race as a student.

"Our push was probably too big and it kind of killed us off at the same time as they found their race pace," he said.

For the rest of my life I'll think we should have won that race

Peter Marsland, Cambridge

"Last year the pressure was off but this year I thought we should have won it.

"For the rest of my life I'll think we should have won that race."

Cambridge cox Rebecca Dowbiggin confirmed that this was her last race as she has decided against pursuing a career as a professional with the Great Britain squad.

The first woman to cox three Boat Races, she has now lost two since her opening victory.

Like Marsland, she believed the Light Blues were still moving faster than Oxford when she put in a call to lift the rate, which had the reverse affect on their speed.

On paper we were a bit stronger but we knew we weren't just going to walk away from them

Tom Solesbury
Oxford and Great Britain

"The one thing I might have changed, was I might have called for that length a little later, given us a chance to move through them at a steady pace for a bit longer and then tried to kill it off," she told BBC Sport.

"But that's only a small change. If we were the faster crew, the difference of a few strokes shouldn't make all the difference. I can't say it would have caused a different result."

Coach Sean Bowden told BBC Sport this was one of the best crews he has turned out in his 10 years at Oxford.

"It's really a fantastic boat. Our speed in training was the best we've ever had," he said.

"They put in a polished performance and dealt with all the pressure and the hype."

Oxford's Tom Solesbury has little time to celebrate as he flies out to Varese in Italy on Monday to join the Great Britain training camp.


"On paper we were a bit stronger but we knew we weren't just going to walk away from them," said Solesbury, who came 13th in the pair in Beijing.

"But having said that we didn't expect them to be half a length up on the inside of the bend."

Smith says his priority is to finish is Masters in Business Administration course before deciding how much of a part he is able to play in the Great Britain squad.

Three others in the Oxford crew, including Kiwi Olympic bronze medallist George Bridgewater, are likely to do similarly, rather than competing in the same line-up again.

But Smith said: "If we had a summer campaign now we'd be really fighting up there among the best eights in the world."

see also
Photos of Oxford's victory
29 Mar 09 |  Rowing
Students v Supermen
24 Mar 09 |  Rowing
Oxford weigh in as heaviest ever
19 Mar 09 |  Other sport...
Boat Race returns to BBC in 2010
19 Mar 09 |  Other sport...
ITV drops Boat Race for football
09 Dec 08 |  Entertainment
Olympians picked in Oxford crew
04 Mar 09 |  Other sport...
Students get tough on the Thames
17 Dec 08 |  Other sport...

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