Cambridge won the Women’s Boat Race by an enormous lengthDevarshi Lodhia/Varsity

For the first time since 2012 Cambridge have won the Women’s Boat Race, having set a record time of 18 minutes and 33 seconds on the Thames this afternoon. Oxford meanwhile were left trailing behind by some 20 lengths after a dreadful start in which Rebecca Esselstein caught a crab on the first stroke.

Perhaps taking some by surprise, Cambridge won the toss and chose the Surrey bend that had brought Oxford so much joy in the inaugural double-header in this event last year. The Middlesex bend is a popular choice for crews who want to start and finish the race on the front foot, and the starting advantage that Cambridge had handed their rivals suddenly turned into a dead weight when Esselstein dragged her oar deep through the Thames right on the starting flag. Cambridge’s start, in contrast, could hardly have been better, and within a minute they found themselves an unassailable three lengths ahead.

What a difference, what a far cry from last year. As soon as the adverse conditions began to overrun the Cambridge boat last March, the race was a dead rubber. With umpires ordering Cambridge to stop the race, it was, frankly, a miracle to see them cross the finish at Mortlake still buoyant. On the Thames this afternoon they were flawless, leaving an admittedly hamstrung Oxford team a blip on the horizon of the London tideway.

Unlike Oxford, Cambridge put out a crew with previous in this event, with Ashton Brown, Holly Hill, Myriam Goudet and Melissa Wilson all having rowed for Cambridge in the Boat Race in previous years. They could also call on the experience of the race’s only Olympian, Ireland’s Claire Lambe, and they put that know-how to the best possible use to open a ten second lead within four and a half minutes. Heading under the Hammersmith Bridge seven minutes in, there was already no way back for an Oxford crew whose race ended before it even began.

After Hammersmith, Cambridge were free to pick their spot and row their own race, drifting over to the easier waters of the north bank, guided there by the excellent coxing of 19 year old Matthew Holland. The Westminster alumnus had guided his crew to a ten-length lead by Barnes Bridge. And so to victory under Chiswick Bridge, one thoroughly deserved after a performance as imperious as this. Last year’s monkey was well and truly off the back, and for the very first time, CUWBC stepped onto the banks of the Thames as champions of the Boat Race.

Cambridge number 7 Myriam Goudet revealed the moment when Cambridge knew they’d won the Race: “After Barnes Bridge” she said, “I thought, ‘we’re doing it, we’re actually doing it.’ So after that I actually started to enjoy it.

On the choice of the Surrey bend, she explained: “Well because we tried all the different combinations and different stations and we felt that having the advantage on the Surrey bend would help us to break clear if we were in a good position, so it’s always useful to have that first corner!”

Light Blue President Ashton Brown addressed the media after the race, and chief among the questions was how Oxford’s poor start had altered the nature of the contest.

“When I saw that I thought we’d better make that a huge margin,” said Brown, “That was a thought shared by the whole boat. We’re a very vocal crew and there was a lot of chat down the boat about keeping up speed and it never being enough. I didn’t really think we’d won until about ten strokes before the end.”

On breaking the course record, Cambridge’s Anna Dawson told us: “That is just the icing on the cake! That is fabulous, we’ve had an amazing season, we’ve got a great group of girls, and to be honest it’s just an incredible experience all round. There’s so much history, just being a part of it is just amazing, and topping it off with a win is just the perfect end to this amazing campaign”

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