Putney’s Sophie Shapter called time on her coxing career after piloting Cambridge to an emphatic victory in the Women’s Boat Race.
It was a light blue whitewash for Cambridge on the River Thames as they won the men’s race and both events for reserve crews too, for the first time since 1997.
Shapter’s decade of experience on the Thames helped the Cambridge women stay calm and controlled after a slightly wobbly start in calm conditions at Putney.
They moved clear a mile into the race and continued, despite an Oxford fightback mid race, to triumph at Chiswick Bridge by seven boat lengths in a time of 19 minutes and six seconds.
“I never thought I’d do the Boat Race and never thought I’d be on that stage, spraying champagne everywhere,” said Shapter, 23, who learned to row at Latymer Upper School in Hammersmith.
“It’s something I’ve always watched people do and thought ‘That’s pretty awesome’. And now I’ve done it.”
Cambridge won the women’s race for the second successive year
With American Olivia Coffey in the stroke seat, Cambridge found a good rhythm just a minute into the race, while their Oxford rivals continued to toil over their start.
They had a length’s lead by the end of the Putney Embankment and Shapter’s call at the Mile Post moved them well clear.
It was the first time since 1999 that Cambridge have won back-to-back races. Going into the event, Oxford had won eight of the last 10.
The series is now 43-30 in favour of Cambridge, but the crews are level at two races each since the women’s event moved to the tidal Thames in 2015.
“We put in a big move at the Mile,” said Shapter. “The crew responded really well to my calls – it was incredible.”
Looking ahead she said: “I think that’s me done [coxing]. I don’t want to do any Great Britain stuff. It’s intense, it’s your career, it’s not what I want to do for the rest of my life.”
“I’ll probably play some football, get some fitness work done,” said Shapter, who has played for the Cambridge University second XI in the past. She hopes to move into a career in broadcasting after completing her masters degree.
The Cambridge men won in style too, with a three-length margin in a time of 17 minutes 51 secondss, and there was relief for another local cox who won for the first time in four attempts in a Cambridge crew.
Hugo Ramambason, who learnt to row at Westminster School, had steered reserve crew Goldie in two defeats and was also on the wrong side of the verdict in last year’s Boat Race.
But his crew were so far up at the end of the embankment that he could afford to push over into Oxford water, sending the puddles from the Cambridge blades downstream to disrupt their rivals.
“Sitting on the start line felt so calm, the start was pretty level but 30 seconds in we started to move and we didn’t look back,” said Ramambason, the Cambridge cub president.
“Last year was really tough but it’s been great. The attitude of the squad has been great and I’m so glad it’s come good.”
His counterpart Iain Mandale, who grew up in Surbiton said simply: “The guys did a really good job but Cambridge were a really good crew.”