The 163rd Cancer Research UK University Boat Race ended as the first had in 1829: with victory for Oxford. Leading from start to finish, the Dark Blue crew completed their fourth victory in five years in a time of 16min 59sec.
Victorious Oxford crew member James Cook will have to be presented with a new winners’ medal after post-race celebrations saw the one he had just been awarded swallowed up by the Thames. Cook, the older of the two brothers in the victorious Oxford boat in yesterday’s captivating 163rd edition of the race on the Tideway, lost his medal after jumping into the river after their victory over Cambridge. “As brothers, we don’t win too much, but now I’ve won a medal and the Thames has already reclaimed it,” he said.
Oliver Cook said: “Seriously, the first moment I thought we’d won was when Olivier [Siegelaar] in front of me punched the water as we crossed the line.
“It was tough the whole way. Cambridge did an amazing job in always being in the race. They never let go.” He was right. This was a gruelling, relentless haul, with Cambridge showing extraordinary resilience as they refused to be cowed, refused whatever Oxford did to be thrown off their dogged pursuit, refused to give up. But stronger, cleaner, smoother in their execution, it was the Oxford crew who ultimately prevailed.
It was a glorious day on the Tideway. The river was flat and calm; the banks were rammed with upward of a quarter of a million spectators who had been marinating all afternoon in the compelling combination of the spring sun and Pimm’s. Every vantage point was taken. Dozens watched from the top of St Mary’s Church tower by Putney Bridge, near Barnes Bridge a man in the slightest pair of Speedos viewed events from atop a bus shelter. Everywhere, the whiff of barbecue wafted across the river.
Amid a gathering shower of champagne, the day’s two victorious crews attempted to maintain tradition with a synchronised throw of their cox into the water. But Oxford’s men won that race too, dispatching the chap who steered them to victory into the river ahead of Cambridge’s women.
With that, for the Cook brothers there was the opportunity to enjoy the moment with their family, to recall their grandfather who had died earlier in the year and missed out on watching the boys’ triumph. Not that Oliver’s celebrations will be extensive. He was due to join the Great Britain squad in a training camp first thing on Monday morning. His brother James had joked: “I’m going to make sure he misses the flight. That’s my job.” At least he didn’t miss the boat.