Birthday boy Karl Hudspith expressed his pride and delight after winning the Boat Race with Oxford – a year after he lost in dramatic circumstances.
Hudspith, from Twickenham, was Oxford president last year when the race was struck by a triple blow: the event was stopped by a protestor swimming between the boats, Oxford broke a blade when the race was restarted and crew member Alex Woods collapsed afterwards.
But he was on the winning side on his 25th birthday, received a chorus of “Happy Birthday” as the crew took to the podium to receive the BNY Mellon Trophy and said: “That was a real Boat Race.”
He added: “It’s a very different feeling. A year ago I was carrying my friend’s body on a stretcher thinking that he might die and it was the worst moment of my life.
“When you go through something like that you can sit around in anger or you can put it past you and get back to work.”
Oxford were heavy favourites going into the 159th running of the race but the crews were together for much of the four-mile course between Putney and Mortlake.
Oxford had the slightly better start but the crews were together, clashing blades, on the way to Hammersmith.
The dark blues had the inside of the following bend but it was not until after Chiswick Steps – where the race stopped last year – that they moved away from Cambridge.
They put in a push approaching Barnes Bridge to win in impressive style by a length-and-a-third in time of 17min 28sec.
Constantine Louloudis, the Olympic bronze medallist who grew up in Maida Vale, rowed in the seven seat for Oxford and said: “It was a hell of a race. We fancied our chances going in but Cambridge made it very tough.”
Woods was this year part of Oxford’s reserve crew, Isis, who won a thrilling race by a third of a length, vindicating his decision to come back in the final year of his postgraduate medical degree.
“Last year didn’t work out the way I wanted to but I was proud to be part of things again and see Oxford do well,” he said.
“Last year was a dream come true [to take part]. It was heartbreaking what happened but I’m proud of myself coming back and proud of Isis.”
Cambridge coach Steve Trapmore admitted: “It’s devastating not to win. The whole campaign is geared up to this moment and not to achieve your target is hard.
“Playing the race over in my head, the guys put in a really valiant effort. We knew we were up a against a very strong Oxford boat.
“We knew we had to stay in touch around the Surrey bend but we couldn’t respond to all the moves that Oxford were putting in down that section.”
Meanwhile, umpire Matthew Pinsent said afterwards that he would like to officiate when the Women’s Boat Race moves to the Thames in London in 2015.