Oxford coach targeting yet another Boat Race triumph

Coach Sean Bowden has already set his sights on yet another win for Oxford’s men in the Cancer Research UK Boat Races after recording his 12th triumph with the dark blues.

It was Bowden’s 14th victory in the Boat Race – he led Cambridge to two wins in the early 1990s – but Sunday’s nail-biting win saw him tie the Oxford record held by legendary coach Dan Topolski.

Asked what his next aim was he replied, “Number 13 (with Oxford). I want to keep the whole thing moving on. Clearly we want to win races and win more than we lose.

“We’ll go back, break the whole programme down again, look at everything that worked, the things that didn’t and see where we can find those extra margins for next year.”

Earlier in the day, Cambridge achieved their goal of recording a huge victory in the women’s race, smashing the previous record over this Putney-to-Mortlake course by a massive 72 seconds to win in 18 minutes 33 secs.

The victory, by 11 boat-lengths was Cambridge’s first for five years, dating to before the event moved to the same course as the men in 2015.

And it went some way to making up for their near-sinking in rough conditions a year ago. Club president Ashton Brown, the Canadian who contracted pneumonia as a result, was one of three returning rowers this year.

She said: “Last year we felt robbed because we didn’t get to race and this year I’ve had an amazing team with me and we did it right to the end.

“It wasn’t just about crossing the line first, it was about making it a real victory and we did that. We had a huge margin by the end and that was our goal.”

That impressive display took attention away from the Oxford mistake that saw them concede a boat-length deficit off the start, when one of the crew’s blades became stuck in the water.

Oxford conceded a three-length lead as a result of the error, killing the race as a contest, but Cambridge still drove home their dominance.

An hour later the Oxford men recorded their 80th victory, in the 163th running of the men’s race, but had to work throughout to maintain the four-second lead they had established by the half-way point.

After a neck-and-neck battle through the first mile, Oxford pushed clear at Hammersmith and cox Sam Collier steered aggressively to help prevent Cambridge from fighting back.

The eventual verdict was a win to Oxford by a length and a quarter in 16 minutes 59 seconds.

Club president Mike DiSanto, an American who raced at Rio 2016, underlined coach Bowden’s importance to the squad.

“I feel so indebted to Sean and OUBC,” he said. “I don’t think I would have made it to the Olympics without them. I really wanted to give Sean this win. He put his heart and soul into this season.”

Brothers James and Ollie Cook celebrated together in the Oxford crew, and dedicated their win to their grandfather John, who died just before Christmas.

“Our family has been so supportive,” said Ollie. “Our grandfather used to always come and watch. We put our family on the line and that added to the nerves – if we lose this, it’s very public.”

Ollie Cook on Monday joins up with the Great Britain squad on training camp, with his sights set on a place in a top crew to race at the World Championships in Florida in October.

“I’ve got to get stuck in to prove myself all over again,” he said after the race. “It’s a whole new thing, starting tomorrow.”