Oxford rower Felix Drinkall collapses after Cambridge victory
Cambridge’s men and women secured double glory in the Boat Race over Oxford in a dominant afternoon for the light blues.
After the women’s team claimed their sixth straight win earlier in the day, the Cambridge men later took the honors and completed the double.
With no Olympians in this year’s edition, it felt like one of the purest men’s races in recent memory as Oxford looked to defend their 2022 title while Cambridge hoped to record four wins in the bottom five.
The eventual winners suffered rudder problems which threatened to delay the start of the 168th running of the men’s race, which was held in blustery conditions on the traditional Thames Tideway course.
Both boats were given an early warning by referee Tony Reynolds as pre-race bookies favorite Oxford took the lead with the weight advantage.
While each crew had men with previous experience in the blue boat, only Cambridge had two returnees from 2022 in Luca Ferraro, moving from bow to batsman, and captain Ollie Parish on the seven-seater.
Parish’s mate’s brother Jasper won in the women’s boat last year and this time joined his brother in the men’s boat.
That proved to be a crucial trade as Jasper made a risky call near Fulham’s Craven Cottage stadium to move closer to the bank and river wall and closer to the bend in hopes of finding friendlier waters.
It turned out to be a brilliant decision, allowing the light blue boat to take a half-length lead and although Oxford didn’t let their opponents get away, their bow often drew level with the stern of their rivals but failed to gain significant ground on Cambridge carried his advantage across the finish line.
There was cause for concern for Oxford when stroke Felix Drinkall appeared to collapse in the boat and was quickly attended to by the medical team, with the BBC reporting the rower had been taken to hospital.
Earlier Sunday Cambridge claimed a sixth straight win in the 77th edition of the women’s race, beating Oxford by a dominant 4 1/2 lengths.
Both blue boats broke records in 2022, Cambridge overtaking their competition by 2 1/4 lengths, but with Cambridge President Caoimhe Dempsey the only returnee for both universities and no Olympians on either side for 2023, it had to be a different race.
Cambridge were the big favorites again, opting for Surrey Station after winning the coin toss, but it was Oxford who took an early lead in the blustery conditions.
The defending champions quickly regained Oxford’s advantage and were soon back in control of their own destiny, although things got interesting at Hammersmith Bridge when referee Matt Smith issued a strong warning as the boats got dangerously close and Oxford threatened to close their opponents bump.
Cambridge steered well and was well ahead at half-time and Smith had cleared his flags as Cambridge fought through the choppy waters and to victory.
Cambridge Women’s President Caoimhe Dempsey told BBC Sport: ‘I really couldn’t catch my breath. This was such a whirlwind of a race, there was so much going on, the conditions changed so much from start to finish.
“I am so proud. It’s a very different experience as president, and it’s a very different experience to be in the stroke seat, but honestly it still sinks in. I’m just so proud of the girls. It was a tough race, there was so much going on and they handled it so well.
“They are just so tenacious and strong and brave and give Oxford full credit, they put in a fantastic race, they really didn’t let go of us and they had a fantastic start. They handled the conditions so well. It’s just such an amazing thing to be a part of.”