Cambridge power to victory over Oxford in women's Boat Race

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Cambridge ladies powered to victory over Oxford after their rivals got off to a dreadful start in the 72nd women's Boat Race on the River Thames.

The Oxford crew could not have had a worse start, unbalancing and appearing to dip their oars far too deep into the rushing tide, tipping alarmingly to one side as they did so.

The error immediately put them on the back foot, allowing Cambridge to race three or four lengths ahead within a few hundred metres of the start at Putney.

By the first mile marker they had opened up an unassailable lead of 10 seconds and were left to race only against themselves and the clock, winning in a record time that was faster than their men's team last year.

The jubilant light blue team roared with delight as they crossed the finish line, the crowds joining in a chorus of three cheers.

The victory, breaking a four-year cycle of Oxford wins, was all the sweeter for the favourites Cambridge after their boat almost sank in rough conditions last year.

For the Oxford team the astonishing manner of their defeat was even harder to stomach after the crew came through injury and illness to reach the start line.

Members of the dark blue team were in tears after crossing the finish, consoling each other over their loss.

Thousands of people lined the banks of the four mile, 374-yard championship course between Putney and Mortlake for the Cancer Research UK Boat Race.

The race itself was in doubt after an unexploded Second World War bomb was found in the river near the start line, before being safely removed by police.

For Ashton Brown, president of the Cambridge women's team, it was the perfect antidote to last year when she caught pneumonia after the team's boat was swamped.

Speaking after the race, she said: "I'm just so proud of my squad, so proud of the team this year.

"We got to have the race we wanted to have. Last year we felt a bit robbed because we didn't get to race. This year I have just had an amazing team with me and we did it right to the end."

Oxford captain Harriet Austin said she was proud of the way her team recovered from their start.

She said: "The start didn't go as we'd planned but I think we got it together really well and I am really proud of the girls and the effort we put in.

"It was a good race but today was Cambridge's day."

A fleet of celebrities also raced each other in a special race to raise money for Cancer Research UK.

Coached by Olympic rowing champions Sir Steve Redgrave and James Cracknell, the likes of Strictly Come Dancing star Ore Oduba, presenter Vernon Kay, comedian Mark Watson and swimmer Rebecca Adlington donned pink and purple suits to go head to head as part of the charity's Pull Together campaign.

After each crew apparently tried to outdo each other in catching crabs and losing their oars rather than racing, Team Redgrave eventually surged ahead to win the race by a nose on the line.

In the men's race, last year's winners Cambridge were going for their first back-to-back victories since 1999 after their win in 2016 ended four years of Oxford domination.

The Oxford boat boasted two brothers, Jamie and Ollie Cook, along with William Warr, who had to banish from his mind allegations of being a traitor after previously racing for Cambridge in 2015.

The 163rd boat race got off to a scintillating start, the boats on level terms before Oxford opened up a lead of almost a boat length at around two minutes.

There was almost a clash of oars as the two boats fought for the more favourable water channels on the river, before Oxford surged ahead coming to the Hammersmith Bridge section.

Cambridge dug deep to stay as close as they could, even momentarily closing the gap, but Oxford found clear water at the end of the race to win by a length and a half and reclaim the title.

After crossing the finish line, Jamie Cook clambered over his exhausted team mates to stagger down the boat and embrace his older brother.

Oxford's president Michael DiSanto rowed for Team USA at the Rio Olympics, but when asked how the Boat Race compared he said "there's nothing like it".

He said: "In my three boat races that is going to be my favourite. The harder it is the more you can just savour it at the end.

"Hats off to Cambridge - it was a good boat, we were just better on the day, that's what it's about."

Ollie Cook said they had been forced to "put everything out there" to win, while his brother Jamie added "it was extremely special" to have won with his brother.

He said: "We just did the job - we were clinical, but thanks so much to Cambridge."

Vanquished Cambridge president Lance Tredell said his crew were "bitterly disappointed" not to back up their win from last year. 

He said: "We stuck together, we really fought it out, we never gave up, but it wasn't enough today, unfortunately."