Cambridge earns double victory in first Boat Race held outside London since Second World War

Video report by ITV News Sports Reporter Chris Skudder

Cambridge’s recent stranglehold on the Boat Race continued as they pipped Oxford in both the men’s and women’s events by less than a length in a unique year for the traditional showdown between the two universities.

For the women, it was their fourth successive win over Oxford, prevailing by less than a length in a unique year for the showdown between the two universities.

Oxford were repeatedly warned by the umpire for encroaching on their rivals’ line but Cambridge held their nerve, establishing a slender lead after halfway which they never surrendered as they triumphed on Sunday afternoon.

The women's race ended with victory for Cambridge in a hard fought race along the unusually straight course on the River Great Ouse.

Cambridge claimed their third successive win – and fourth in the last five events – in the men’s Boat Race.

Sarah Winckless, the first female to umpire the men’s race in the event’s 166-year history, was kept busy as on several occasions she warned Cambridge cox Charlie Marcus to alter his crew’s line.

The Cambridge crew celebrates by throwing their cox into the river after winning the 166th Men's Boat Race. Credit: PA

It was a bold approach from Cambridge but they hit the front early on and stayed out in front of Oxford, who kept the disadvantage to less than a length without being able to reel in their rivals.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, spectators were banned and people were warned they would face a fine of £200 if they tried to watch the event.

The boat race this year was moved away from London and to the Great Ouse in Ely, Cambridgeshire for the first time since the Second World War.

The change of location was due to concerns over the safety of Hammersmith Bridge which has been closed since April last year.

"Frustrated" rowers, wearing hard hats and high-vis jackets, staged a protest on the River Thames about the lack of action towards repairing the bridge.

The 134-year-old west London bridge was first closed to road traffic when cracks appeared in its pedestals.

Rowers staged a protest calling for action to be taken to repair Hammersmith Bridge. Credit: Handout

But when a heatwave caused the faults to worsen, it was closed to pedestrian, cyclist and river traffic.

To coincide with the University Boat Race, 12 boats of rowers set off from the traditional start of the race in Putney to the bridge to protest apparent inaction over reopening the bridge.

Mark Lucani, captain of the 165-year-old London Rowing Club, said: "Essentially, it was a mark of our frustration around that, coinciding with the Oxford and Cambridge race which is happening today but not on the championship course.

"We had the message of ‘let’s get the work done on the bridge, stop politicking and take action’.

“The bridge has been shut for almost a year now and no physical work has begun yet.”

He added: “Every user of the river has felt the negative impact.”

Jess Eddie, three-time British Olympic rower and medallist in the Rio Olympics, said: "The impact of the broken bridge on British rowing, other water sports and river users has been huge, confining hundreds of boats to a small section of the river.

“A closed Hammersmith Bridge will stop a number of important river events and races that people train for year-round, some of which have been taking place for over 100 years.”

Julia Watkins, 52, a spokesperson for campaign group Hammersmith Bridge SOS, said the lack of action towards fixing the bridge left her feeling “absolutely despairing”.

She said: “Not only is a historic part of our nation’s history just lost as the Boat Race seems unlikely to happen at Hammersmith for years to come, there are thousands of ordinary people who are really suffering due to the Government’s inaction to fix a bridge."