If it hadn’t been for Miffy’s Facebook status update, I wouldn’t have known that it was the University Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge today. Same coxes as last year – and with the controversy over last year’s result – a bit of a blood match between the two crews.
The controversy is over Thorsten Engelmann, one of last year’s successful Cambridge crew members withdrew from his course and college after the boat race but before graduating, which may be in violation of the behind-the-scene-but-not-public rules. Oxford certainly claim that it means that Cambridge should forfeit the race result as they (Oxford) are now the first eligible crew to finish (even if it was in second place).
ITV switched presenter again. Out went last year’s Mark Durden-Smith who joined ITV Sport to front the 2007 coverage and did a great job, and in came Craig Coyle. Formula One kept Steve Rider in Malaysia last year. This year, ITV seem to have left the commentator most closely associated with Olympic rowing coverage to research Tuesday night’s UEFA Champions League match in Rome rather than letting him loose on the Boat Race.
The same production sleight of hand seemed to be in operation again this year. The last time you hear from presenter Craig Coyle is just before the ad break that precedes the start of the race. As he handed over to commentator Peter Drury, he would have been in a speed boat being shunted from the start of the race up river to the finish for the post-race interviews. So his handover would have been pre-recorded. Though this year, at least Peter Drury didn’t respond with “Thanks Craig”.
While heavier crews have been more likely to lose races (lost 9 of the last 16), in the rougher conditions, weight and stability seemed to be to Oxford’s advantage. And at 12 minutes, Oxford started to pull away from being ahead but still overlapping the other boat to being over a boat length ahead and finally powering away in front to win easily with the slowest time of 20:52 since a monstrous 23:01 in 1947.
As a total sporting non-aficionado, the Boat Race along with the London Marathon strangely still gets my vote every year.
PS: Clocks go forward an hour tonight in Europe.