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Monday, 1 April, 2002, 16:11 GMT 17:11 UK
A race to remember
Matthew Pinsent
In his column for BBC Sport Online, triple Olympic gold medallist and former Blue Matthew Pinsent reflects on an "amazing" race and is already looking forward to next year.

  Click here to watch the race  

There have been some very good Boat Races in recent years but that was something else, and the greatest quality was that it went the full distance.

Often the event is criticised for being a procession, but this year the balance of power swapped between the two crews throughout.

It was Oxford in the first minute before Cambridge came through on the first bend.

Against the odds the Light Blues kept that lead and with half-a-length up and five minutes left I thought that was it, but then Oxford came right at the death.

Sebastien Mayer reaches breaking point as his crew-mates take the strain
Mayer reached breaking point before the line
The Dark Blues put themselves in the right position, and although it took them 15 minutes, they obviously didn't mind being down for the majority of the race.

They were in fact down at every time check - bar the important one.

To get there first they quite literally rowed Cambridge to a standstill, and no-one more than Sebastien Mayer.

The German was struggling from before Barnes Bridge and as the finishing line came into view there were essentially two coxes in the Cambridge boat - and one of them weighed 100 kilos.

The first indication of a problem is when the blade goes out of time and even the smallest of changes can make the biggest of differences in a boat.

Within a few minutes he was just going through the motions, sliding on his seat, a moving deadweight.


Cambridge's first stroke was one of more than 800 and it's unfair on the race to say that it swung on the start
But it's hard to lay the blame at Mayer's door. He gave his all and you have to ask questions of the rest of the crew and whether they had more to give.

Others of Light Blue persuasion may point the finger of blame at the umpire as he called the start despite Ellie Griggs, the Cambridge cox, still having her arm raised.

Again that's a hard one to level.

Simon Harris told me he didn't see her hand up, but then again nobody in that boat should be relying on her hand being up or down on whether they're going to start the race.

There are two rules in the Boat Race: You obey the umpire and you go through the middle arch of Barnes Bridge.


This meeting has done great things for the profile of the race
When the umpire says "Go", you go, and I've told an umpiring panel in the sport that much.

At the moment both coxes can put their arms up and down playing a seemingly endless game of cat and mouse.

It doesn't add anything to the race and it doesn't help the rowers. Everyone just wants to get on with it.

Cambridge's first stroke was one of more than 800 and it's a bit of a conspiracy theory to say the race swung on the start. It's also unfair on the race itself.

It truly was amazing and it's now hard to say where the balance of power is in the event.

Oxford in action on the Thames
Oxford's victory completed a clean sweep of wins in the Varsity races this year
Cambridge have produced winning crews for the best part of 10 years, but they have now lost two out of three.

They have to re-assess what they're doing and the problem with that process is that it's very tempting not to change things that you've done well.

However, they have to change things, and whereas Oxford can tinker and experiment almost risk free, Cambridge have some hard questions to answer.

All in all this meeting has done great things for the profile and stature of the race.

It was a testament to the athletes involved, and the event, that it produced something like that and it's the best possible argument against people who say it has no place in the sporting calendar.

It's unquestionably a fantastic British sporting event, and I for one can't wait for next year.

BBC Sport Online's University Boat Race site

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See also:

30 Mar 02 | Boat Race 2002
30 Mar 02 | Boat Race 2002
26 Mar 02 | Boat Race 2002
Links to more Boat Race 2002 stories are at the foot of the page.


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