Monday, 23 October 2017

Leander’s Olympic medallist helps Oxford win Boat Race

LEANDER’S Constantine Louloudis helped Oxford University to win the BNY Mellon Boat Race last Sunday, laying the demons to rest

LEANDER’S Constantine Louloudis helped Oxford University to win the BNY Mellon Boat Race last Sunday, laying the demons to rest from last year’s incident-ridden encounter, when a swimmer on the course halted the race.

On paper there was little to choose between the two crews, despite Oxford being the bookies’ favourites. Oxford had the marginal weight advantage of 2.6kg per man, as well as Olympic experience in the stern pair.

At stroke was the Canadian silver medallist Malcolm Howard, while behind him was Louloudis, who had himself stroked the GB Olympic eight to a bronze medal at Eton Dorney.

But it was Cambridge who boated the more multi-national crew, with the majority of their athletes from Australia and the USA. The club president, Olympic bronze medallist George Nash, was one of only two Britons on board, while the Czech Republic was represented for the first time in the race by the veteran Milan Bruncvik in the three seat. Oxford won the toss and chose the Surrey station, which they hoped would give them the advantage of the two-mile left-hand bend between Putney and Mortlake.

Despite Cambridge going off at the higher rate of 49 strokes a minute, it was the Dark Blues at 47 who took the early lead. As both crews began to settle at 36 the coxes steered courses that were perilously close round the first Middlesex bend which theoretically favoured Cambridge.

The umpire, four-times Olympic champion Sir Matthew Pinsent, himself a veteran of three Boat Races from 1990 to 1993, was kept busy separating the crews, but despite a brief clash of blades neither crew gained an advantage.

Oxford reached the first timing point at the mile, a quarter of a length ahead and began to increase their lead, but Cambridge responded at 37 and came back as the crews approached Hammersmith Bridge. Challenge and counter then followed as Oxford repeatedly tried to break clear but Cambridge hung on grimly, maintaining the overlap with the leaders until the crew reached Chiswick Steps.

Knowing that the final bend would favour the Light Blues, Oxford pushed on hard and, after going more than a length clear, were allowed to cross into their opponents’ water. Despite a spirited finish by Cambridge rating 37, Oxford crossed the line four seconds clear in 17 minutes, 28 seconds.

Speaking after the race Louloudis said: “That was really tough, I had nothing left on the finish line, I was just hanging on for the last five minutes absolute credit to them.

“It felt like we were just exchanging blows, but we absolutely had to get ourselves ahead before the final bend I don’t like to think how it might have gone if we hadn’t managed to do that.”

Meanwhile umpire Matthew Pinsent wasn’t certain there had been a clash off Craven Cottage. He said: “There was possibly a very light contact, but it was just a tap, and I’d warned Cambridge going into it, and they came off the worse. Frankly I hope that neither of them think that the umpire affected the outcome and that’s the most important thing.”

Oxford’s win now brings their total to 77, against the Cambridge tally of 81. Oxford haven’t been ahead in the series since the Twenties, when a run of 15 successive Cambridge wins gave them a lead which they have maintained ever since.

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