THE last ever Oxford versus Cambridge Women’s Boat Race to be rowed at Henley was won by Oxford University for the second successive year.
Cambridge took the early lead over the 2,000 metre course before Oxford established the stronger rhythm and overhauled the opposition within two minutes.
Cambridge, with five returning Blues from last year’s race on board, were eager to avenge last year’s defeat. But Oxford were boating an international line-up that included Liz Fenje, the Canadian lightweight sculler, as well as Anastasia Chitty and Amber deVere, two former GB junior world silver medallists.
Once Oxford were in the lead they dominated and despite a series of pushes from Cambridge, went on to win by four lengths.
Thanks to their earlier dominance of the annual race Cambridge still have a significant lead in the series whose history goes back to the origins of the event in 1927.
Originally scored on style as well as speed, the race was first staged in the two university cities in alternate years. But in 1977 the clubs agreed that the world-famous regatta course at Henley offered the best water on neutral territory. Oxford also proved victorious in two of Sunday’s other races, winning the reserve women’s boat race by just half-a- length, and the women’s lightweight boat race by three-and-a-half lengths. Cambridge won the last race of the day, preventing a repeat of last year’s Oxford whitewash, by winning the lightweight men’s boat race by three-and-a-half lengths.
Support from the current race sponsors, Newton Investment Management, now means that the women’s boat race moves to London from next year, when it will be rowed on the same afternoon as the men’s race over the four-and-a-quarter mile championship course from Putney to Mortlake.
With a worldwide TV audience of many millions the Boat Race is one of the iconic rowing events on the calendar, and the inclusion of the women’s race on the same day offers long-overdue recognition of the rise in proficiency of women’s rowing.
The Henley Boat Races will continue, despite the absence of the women’s boat race, with organisers working to determine a new programme based around the lightweight races.