Image Description: cartoon oars on a blue background.
The 2021 Gemini Women’s Boat Race was won earlier by Cambridge University by less than a length. The Men’s Boat Race has been won by Cambridge by the same margin.
The Boat Race was not held on its traditional course this year. Instead, for the first time since 1944, the race was held in Ely. This was due to concerns over mass gatherings and COVID-19 restrictions, alongside safety concerns over Hammersmith Bridge. An alternative route has been proposed on the Thames for upcoming years.
The crews were announced earlier this week. Many of those rowing had not taken part in a Boat Race before, and several had been selected to race in the cancelled race last year. The races were broadcast live on BBC One.
The Women’s race only joined the Men’s race on the traditional course at Tideway in 2015. The Women’s race took place for the first time in 1917 on the Isis River, in Oxford.
The 75th Boat Race Women’s Crews:
|Cox||Dylan Whittaker||King’s||Cox||Costi Levy||Exeter|
|8||Sarah Tisdall||Lucy Cavendish||8||Katherine Maitland||St Hughs|
|7||Bronya Sykes||Gonville & Caius||7||Katie Anderson||Brasenose|
|6||Sophie Paine (President)||Girton||6||Georgina Grant||Harris Manchester|
|5||Anouschka Fenley||Lucy Cavendish||5||Julia Lindsay||St Cross|
|4||Caoimhe Dempsey||Newnham||4||Amelia Standing||St Anne’s|
|3||Abba Parker||Emmanuel||3||Martha Birtles||Mansfield|
|2||Sarah Portsmouth||Newnham||2||Anja Zehfuss||Green Templeton|
|Bow||Adriana Perez Rotondo||Newnham||Bow||Megan Stoker||St Peter’s|
The 166th Boat Race Men’s Crews:
|Cox||Charlie Marcus||Trinity||Cox||Jesse Oberst||Pembroke|
|Stroke||Drew Taylor||Clare||Stroke||Augustin Wambersie||St Catherine’s|
|7||Callum Sullivan (President)||Peterhouse||7||Joshua Bowesman-Jones||Keble|
|6||Ollie Parish||Peterhouse||6||Jean-Philippe Dufour||Lincoln|
|5||Garth Holden||St Edmund’s||5||Tobias Schröder||Magdalen|
|4||Quinten Richardson||Fitzwilliam||4||Felix Drinkall||Lady Margaret Hall|
|3||Seb Benzecry||Jesus||3||Martin Barakso||Kellogg|
|2||Ben Dyer||Gonville & Caius||2||Alex Bebb (President)||St Peter’s|
|Bow||Theo Weinberger||St John’s||Bow||James Forward||Pembroke|
The Women’s Boat Race began at approximately 15:55 and the 5km course took the crews around 16 minutes. Cambridge raced on the West Bank side, which is the favoured side as it is supposed to give more protection from the wind. The Cambridge crew took an early lead, with the boats coming together in the centre of the river. Oxford then equalised the race, but the two boats remained very close on the much narrower course.
At four minutes, the Oxford crew was a nose ahead of the Cambridge boat. Oxford were repeatedly warned by the umpire for coming too close to the Cambridge Boat. The Oxford Cox was warned directly by the umpire not to clash with the Cambridge boat.
After seven minutes, the Oxford boat was narrowly ahead of the Cambridge boat, but the Light Blue crew began a push to regain some water. At the halfway point, Oxford were a quarter of a length ahead, but were once again warned for moving onto the Cambridge side. Cambridge quickly caught up to the Oxford lead.
Ten minutes into the race, Cambridge were ahead by a single seat. With 1500m to the finish, Cambridge moved further into the lead. The competitive race was taken to the finish line, with the Oxford crew refusing to let the Light Blue boat move further into the lead. In the final strait, Cambridge were warned for coming too close to the Oxford boat.
As the finish line came into sight, the Cambridge boat raised their stroke rate to 36 per minute, and were almost a length in front of the Oxford boat. The home advantage proved too much for the Oxford crew to overcome, as the Cambridge crew won by just under a length. The Light Blues have now won 4 women’s races in a row. Cambridge now lead Oxford in overall victories 45 to 30.
The Oxford Men’s Coach spoke to the BBC before the race about allegations of sexual assault made against a member of the Oxford Men’s Boat Club in the last 48 hours. He emphasised that the crew had been able to focus and train, and highlighted that all allegations were being taken very seriously. He also stated that the close relationship between the Men’s and Women’s crews was very important to the club. The Women’s crews wore ribbons to show support for survivors of sexual assault.
Four of the Dark Blue boat had been selected for the cancelled 2020 race. It was the first time in the history of the Men’s Boat Race that it was officiated by a female umpire.
The Dark Blue Boat rowed on the West Bank, with the slight advantage of the shelter of the river bank. The Umpire had asked the crews before the beginning of the race to keep 2-3 meters between the boats, to avoid clashes between the boats.
Cambridge took a slight lead in the first minute, with both crews being warned early on to move apart from each other. The Light Blue boat took a relatively large early lead of nearly a length. Cambridge were repeatedly warned not to move across into Oxford water until they had a clear lead, with the Cambridge Cox directly warned by the umpire.
After nearly four minutes, the umpire indicated an obstruction in the water, and ordered the boats to move apart for safety. The Oxford boat began to creep back on the Cambridge crew, who were again warned not to come too close to the blades of the Dark Blue boat. Although still in the lead, the Oxford boat had regained a significant amount of water.
The warnings continued to come for the Light Blue boat as the Oxford boat challenged their lead. After 7 minutes, the two boats were practically neck and neck, with the more experienced Oxford Crew holding their line. At the halfway split, Oxford were 1.3 seconds down, equivalent to a third of a length.
The Cambridge boat held its advantage into the final kilometres of the race, once again pulling ahead with 1500m to go. The warnings from the umpire continued, with the Light Blue team forced to move back towards the East Bank. Oxford held on, continuing to reduce the distance between the two boats as they came into the final 1000m.
The Light Blue boat were warned once more in the last 500m, with the Cambridge boat nearly a length in front. Despite the number of warnings, there were no clashes or fouls in the race.
It was another very competitive race, with the result not obvious until the very end. However, the Cambridge boat was in front at the finish line, by approximately the same margin as the Women’s Crew.
This means that Cambridge have won the Men’s Boat Race 85 times, to Oxford’s 80.
The Oxford Crews will tonight be disappointed, but the difficulty of training under COVID-19 restrictions and racing on the Cambridge Crews’ home stretch should not be underestimated. The Men’s race was the closest since 2003, and the Women’s race was the closest since 2012.
After a cancelled race last year, both boats were glad to be back on the water and racing competitively again. Sarah Winckless, umpire of the Men’s Boat Race, was described the Men’s race as “extraordinary” and was happy that it was both safe and fair, despite the potential hazard of the obstruction.