Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, March 28, 1998
Cambridge make it six in a row in record timeChristopher Dodd watches the biggest ever crew storm from Putney to Mortlake in 16:19 - fastest by 26 seconds
Oxford had Cambridge under serious pressure for the first mile of the 144th Boat Race, but came out of a serious clash struggling to maintain rhythm and momentum as the tallest and heaviest crew in history flicked into top gear to add record-breaking to their statistics. Cambridge's Cox, Alistair Potts, yelled "go, go, go" as blades went bang, bang, bang, and suddenly the Light Blues, on the outside Surrey station and level with Oxford at the Mile signal, were two seats up.
Graham Smith, Cambridge's bow man, said: "Coming into the Fulham bend I felt that gorgeous rush when we found our rhythm, then there was a clash and we lost it a little, then found it again. I watched the second clash with glee. All the things the press write like we were the tallest and heaviest reverberated round my head, and we were going through - the fastest ever as well."
After lowering the record to Hammersmith by a second, Cambridge moved out wide to take Oxford's water and risked a bump as their opponents reduced the clear water to a few feet. Stroke Marc Weber lead a wonderful piece of rowing in which Cambridge stretched themselves along Chiswick and Corney reaches at a comfortable rating between 35 and 32 strokes to the minute. Oxford rowed well and held on, but after Potts's sharp turn into the final stretch at Barnes Bridge Weber raised the rate to 34 and then 37, and his crew knocked 26 seconds - or almost nine boat lengths - off Oxford's record set in 1984.
The three-length win was accomplished in 16 mins 19 secs, and Oxford also came inside the old record by 15 seconds. Cambridge have extended their wins to six in a row, taken the last trophy under the sponsorship of Beefeater Gin, and brought the sub-16 minute Boat Race within grasp.
Sean Bowden, Oxford's new coach, said: "I thought there was some pretty good rowing in the first three minutes. I thought we were in there and Cambridge were under pressure, but the roles were reversed very quickly." Oxford President Andrew Lindsay's gamble of choosing the Middlesex station when he won the toss came to nought at the locking of blades.
There was concern about clashing expressed by both crews and the umpire, Mike Sweeney, who has full responsibility for the conduct of the race. He warned Oxford several times and Cambridge at least twice before the clash, eventually calling both crews. "By and large they responded to me," he said. "They kept biting each other."
The rules state that a foul is physical contact between boats, oars or people, and if such occurs the umpire has little option but to disqualify. No blade was damaged on Saturday, and the fact that both crews were called means that neither can be accused of committing a foul.
Boat Race times
Position Cambridge Oxford Mile: 3.33 3.33 Hammersmith Bridge: 6.20 (record) 6.23 Chiswick Steps: 9.56 (record) 10.01 Barnes Bridge: 13.32 (record) 13.38 Finish: 16.19 (record) 16.28
OxfordBow - C.P.A.Humphreys (Hampton and Oriel) 12st 11lb, J.B.Roycroft (Eton and Keble) 13st 6.5lb, J.Hecht (Univ of Gottingen, Germany, and Keble) 14st 11lb, H.K.Nilsson (Univ of Lund, Sweden, and Hertford) 14st 1lb, E.R.Coode (Eton, Univ of Newcastle and Keble) 14st 6.5lb, A.J.R.Lindsay (Eton and Brasenose) 14st 7.5lb, P.A.Berger (Univ of Pennsylvania, US, and Lincoln) 14st 5.5lb, stroke - N.J.Robinson (Hampton and Lincoln) 13st 7lb, cox - A.Greaney (Abingdon and St Edmund Hall) 8st 8lb. Average 14st three/eights lb.
CambridgeBow - G.Smith (Westminster, Univ Coll London and St Edmund's) 14st 7lb, P.A.Cunningham (British Sch of Brussels and Caius) 13st 6.5lb, J.G.Bull (RGS Newcastle and Emmanuel) 16st 1lb, B.Crombie (McGill Univ, Canada, and Peterhouse) 14st 10lb, T.J.Wallace (King Edward VI Sch Southampton and Jesus) 14st 12lb, A.Story (Henley Coll and St Edmund's) 15st 12lb, S.F.Forster (Univ of Dortmund, Germany and Peterhouse) 16st 2lb, stroke - M.Weber (Technisch Univ Berlin, Germany, and St Edmund's) 13st 11.5lb, cox - A.J.Potts (Winchester, Univ of Edinburgh and Trinity Hall) 8st 5lb. Average: 14st 13 and three/eights lb.
© Copyright Christopher Dodd, 1998.
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