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Boat Race 2024: Both Oxford crews lose to Cambridge

Both the Men’s and Women’s Oxford crews lost to Cambridge in the Gemini Boat Race 2024. The women’s crew started ahead and the men’s crew kicked off head-to-head, but both Dark Blue crews fell behind the Light Blues.

The renowned sporting event is regularly watched by over 250,000 spectators at the riverbanks and millions on TV. This year’s, marking the 169th for men and 78th for women, took place at the 4.25-mile long Championship Course on the River Thames in London. Prior to today, defending champions Cambridge led with a 86–81 record for men and 47–30 for women.

This year, both Oxford teams were tipped as favourites before the race began. Though the women were considered clear favourites, the men were believed to hold a slim lead. This makes the results a surprising upset. Oxford won both tosses, and the women’s Dark Blues chose the Middlesex side, while the men’s chose the Surrey side.

In the women’s race, Oxford started well on an early bend on the Middlesex side of the river, going up nearly a boat length. On the long Surrey bend, however, Cambridge gradually pulled ahead. When Cambridge went up a boat length, the Dark Blue cox directed the crew to bump the Light Blues, believing that they had strayed into the Oxford line. The daring move did not work out, however, and the umpire warned Oxford to move back into their line. It cost Oxford dearly, and after that point, Cambridge cruised smoothly to victory by several boat lengths. After the race ended, the Oxford cox appealed the win to the umpire, arguing that Cambridge had strayed, but the umpire held that it was Oxford that had strayed. 

In the men’s race, the boats started off neck-to-neck, oars splashing within metres of the other team’s, prompting frequent warnings from the umpire to avoid contact. Cambridge led at the Hammersmith Bridge by a small margin, around half a boat length. Past that, Cambridge pulled ahead cleanly as the Surrey bend smoothened out. By Barnes Bridge, on the Middlesex bend, Oxford were about five lengths behind. Though Oxford made a late charge as one of the Cambridge rowers struggled to finish, the gap was too much to close, and Cambridge reached a comfortable victory.

Days before the Boat Race, high levels of E.coli bacteria were found near Hammersmith Bridge. The organisers issued safety advice in response, including cancelling the annual celebratory tradition of throwing the winning coxswain into the river.

Ahead of the race, Oxford Men’s President Louis Corrigan told Cherwell: “I am of course concerned for the safety of my teammates. This risk [of falling ill] doesn’t sway their determination to race. It would take unthinkable adversity to shift these guys away from their goal of victory, but that doesn’t make the contamination acceptable. As part of the Boat Race, we play an important role in really publicising this issue [of water contamination].”

Oxford Women’s President Ella Stadler told Cherwell leading up to the race: “We just can’t wait to show the world how fast we are and what we have built this year as a collective. Flip the tabs and clean sweep, bring on 30th March.”

Among the 40 rowers in the women’s squad, 18 previously trained with the lightweight or openweight squads and 16 trained in the summer through the development squad, so the turnover rate is not too high, according to Stadler. For the men’s squad, Corrigan said that turnover rate has been higher in recent years with more postgraduates who are often only here for a year, but through re-engaging recent alumni, they have built a team environment which has learned not just from last year, but from decades of experience. 

The umpires are Sir Matthew Pinsent, a BBC broadcaster and ex-Oxford rower with ten world championship gold medals and four consecutive Olympic gold medals, and ex-Cambridge rower Richard Phelps, for men’s and women’s, respectively.

On the day of the race, bankside towpaths, pubs, and fan zones are filled with spectators. An Oxford supporter told Cherwell: “The women have given us optimism for the future: This year was a really good performance, much improved. The men showed perseverance and continued to gain even towards the end, but the Cambridge boat was clearly putting in a lot of work and was unstoppable.”

This is Cambridge’s fifth victory out of the last six races for the men, and the seventh consecutive victory for Cambridge women. It marks a dominant period for the Light Blues.

Oxford’s Dark Blue lineups were:

BowLucy EdmundsPembrokeJelmer BennemaExeter
2Ella StadlerExeterHarry GlenisterKeble
3Tessa HainingBalliolSaxon StaceySt John’s
4Claire AitkenOrielJames DoranOriel
5Sarah MarshallJesusElias KunGreen Templeton
6Annie SharpSt Antony’sFrederick RoperSomerville
7Julia LindsaySt CrossLeonard JenkinsMansfield
StrokeAnnie AnezakisPembrokeElliott KempOriel
CoxJoe GellettSt Peter’sWilliam DenegriOriel

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