The Year of the Ox
31 Mar 2008
This year’s Boat Race, sponsored by Xchanging, produced another epic in some of the heaviest conditions in history.
After a close first half, Cambridge couldn’t respond to Oxford’s superior power as the Dark Blues ploughed through choppy waters to win by six lengths over the 41/4- mile course.
The wind and rain made the winning time of 20 min 53 sec the slowest in over 60 years. But what does that matter to Oxford? Job done, enemy defeated, pride restored and the series clawed back by one precious point. Oxford now have 74 wins compared with Cambridge’s 79.
For the first half of the race, the much favoured Oxford crew had little to show for their alleged power advantage. Cambridge weren’t just hanging in there at Hammersmith Bridge, they were beginning to take the lead. This was turning into another gladiatorial battle which was too close to call.
The moment then came for Oxford cox, Nick Brodie, to call for a big push. His eight heavy oxen duly obliged with a sustained surge that was to take them clear. Brodie said: “I looked across and Cambridge seemed tired and their stroke was shortening”.
As the crews hit the rough water, Oxford’s 10lbs a man weight advantage began to tell. They gathered momentum and rhythm and powered through the whipping waves. With the trailing crew in their sights, Oxford grew steadily in confidence and found reserves of energy which eluded the increasingly tiring Cambridge crew.
Victory was sweet for Oxford, especially for their cox, Nick Brodie, who avenged last year’s defeat with this thumping win. Even being thrown ceremonially into the ice-cold water at the end of the race couldn’t wipe the smile off his face!
Rarely in sport do you witness such depth of contrasting emotions as that which is displayed at the winners’ trophy presentation. It is raw and real and unconcealable – the moment by which their entire season will be judged. On the Oxford side there was a mix of unadulterated joy and sheer relief. Those gruelling early rises, punishing training schedules and endless social compromises had all been worth it. For Cambridge, just the bitter pill of defeat and the galling spectacle of watching their conquerors drench themselves in champagne and soak up the praise.
The Boat Race is indeed a brutal event. For the losers, there’s nowhere to hide. It’s ‘winner takes all’ and Oxford, the winners, will savour this until the old enemies meet again.
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