In an afternoon of high drama on the River Tyne, Newcastle University scored an historic first victory, winning the 13th University Boat Race by three races to one, in an afternoon which saw some of the most closely fought races in the history of the event.
Newcastle were victorious in the Freshmen’s, Senior Women’s and Senior Men’s races, giving them the overall trophy for the first time ever.
Strong winds and a fast current delayed the start of the races by half an hour, but the waiting crowds were not disappointed once the action on the river got underway.
In the precursor to the University races, a schools’ race between Tyneside and Wearside saw the Tyne crew, made up of rowers from Queen Elizabeth High School and Tyne Rowing Club, race to a two length victory over a composite crew of rowers from Durham and Chester-le-Street Amateur Rowing Clubs.
The University races got underway with the Freshwomen’s eights, with Newcastle rowing on the Newcastle side of the Tyne and Durham rowing from the Gateshead station. Coming out of the Swing Bridge, Durham’s women were ahead by a length. With a strong current clearly affecting both crews, Newcastle worked hard to close the gap, but Durham held on to their lead, and crossed the finish line ahead by a length.
Next came the Freshmen’s eight. Newcastle took the lead in the early stages of the 1,800 metre race, rowing from the Newcastle station, and stormed ahead to win easily.
Durham University went into the Senior Women’s race as hot favourites to win, but as the crews emerged from beneath the Swing Bridge, it was clear that the race was neck and neck. Newcastle’s women, coxed by freshman Ruaridh MacPhee, put in an enormous effort to pull off the most dramatic and unexpected victory of the day, winning by a canvas, the narrowest of margins. The drama didn’t end there, as Durham’s boat, which had taken on a lot of water during the race, dramatically sank just beyond the finish line.
With Newcastle now leading by two wins to Durham’s one, the pressure was mounting on the senior men’s crews. With both crews racing towards the finish line, it was neck-and-neck, but disaster struck the Durham boat when one of their rowers caught a crab - a rowing term for a bad stroke in which the oar blade slices into the water at an angle and gets caught under the surface - knocking the crew off their stroke and causing them to pull up within sight of the finish, leaving Newcastle to race to an historic victory.
An ecstatic President of Newcastle University Boat Club, Mason Durant, said: “We have waited a long time for this, and it is pretty special.”
Durham’s President, Olly Offord, could only say: “I’m gutted, just gutted”.
Chairman of the Boat Race Executive Committee, Colin Blackburn, said: “This has been a tremendous afternoon of racing, and has reaffirmed why the University Boat Race is such a highlight in sporting calendars of both universities.
“The quality of racing we have seen today, under difficult conditions, is a credit to all of the rowers and their coaching teams who work so hard all year round, and to the fantastic support we receive from Gateshead Council’s Events team and our sponsors, including Northumbrian Water, Port of Tyne and the Environment Agency”, he added.
John Goddard, Chairman of Tyne Rowing Club, commenting on the schools’ race, said: “This is a triumph for the effort put into bringing juniors into rowing, and an indication of how well the rowing clubs on the Tyne collaborate with each other”.
Results in full
Schools Eights: Tyneside boat won by two lengths
Freshwomen's Eights (the Taylor Trophy): Durham University won by half a length
Freshmen's Eights (The Renforth Trophy): Newcastle University won easily
Senior Women's Eights (the Chambers Trophy): Newcastle University won by a canvas
Senior Men's Eights (the Clasper Trophy): Newcastle University won by two lengths.
For further information please contact Melanie Reed, Public Relations Manager, Newcastle University, on 07816 750551.
published on: 9th May 2009