Cambridge double up as River Great Ouse provides superb Boat Race show
- Credit: JOE GIDDENS/PA
Cambridge continued their recent stranglehold on the Boat Race with two narrow victories over Oxford in both the men's and women's events.
The two races, held under sunlit Easter Sunday skies, were raced over a three-mile course of the River Great Ouse between Ely and Littleport.
The decision to switch the race from it's traditional course on the Thames, because of problems with Hammersmith Bridge, removed battles with tides, bends and bridges and yet fears that would cause a downturn in quality were quickly dismissed as both races saw the closest winning margin in just under 10 years.
Less than a length separated the crews as the narrow course, and some external hazards, kept watchers on the edge of their seat.
Sarah Winckless, the first female to umpire the men's race in the 166th edition, repeatedly warned Cambridge cox Charlie Marcus to alter his crew's line as they drifted in from the right of the river bank to the centre.
It was a bold strategy from Cambridge, racing over familiar waters, who nevertheless avoided a clash of oars as they hit the front early on.
And while Oxford stayed hot on their heels of their great rivals, they were never able to reel them in.
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"I had to be as far over as I could. I never fouled them, so that's what I had to do," Marcus said speaking to the BBC. "About three strokes before the finish was when I thought we had this won."
There was a moment of minor concern when Winckless warned of reeds in the middle of the river but the crews passed them without incident.
It was Cambridge's third win in a row and fourth in the last five.
"You dream of this moment," Cambridge rower Theo Weinberger said. "I don't know what to say, it's two years' worth of training and hard work, it just means so much and I don't think there's anything you can quite compare it to."
It was more of a see-saw affair in the women's race but the light Blues were left celebrating a fourth successive victory.
Oxford were repeatedly warned by the umpire for encroaching on their rivals' line but Cambridge held their nerve, establishing a slender lead after halfway and holding it all the way to the finish, just before the Victoria Street bridge in Littleport.
Dylan Whitaker, the winning cox, was full of praise for his opposite number Costi Levy.
He said: "Massive, massive props to Costi because she steered like an absolute champ. That was close but we knew what our plan was, we kept it calm and loose and it worked."