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Cambridge ladies secure Boat Race joy after disastrous start for Oxford crew

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

The light blue crew had the upper hand from the very first stroke after Oxford lost balance and appeared to dip their oars 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 ahead and build up an unassailable lead, winning in a record time that was faster than their men's counterparts last year.

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

In the men's Boat Race, the crews were level at the start before the dark blue of Oxford edged ahead, a lead they never gave up.

Their victory in the 163rd Boat Race denied Cambridge their first back-to-back victories since 1999 and brought the balance between the two universities ever closer, with 80 wins against Cambridge's 82.

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 the Cambridge women, victory offered redemption following their catastrophic race last year, when strong waves swamped their boat.

It was perhaps sweetest for president Ashton Brown, who caught pneumonia during the 2016 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 refused to dwell on the early errors that cost her team the race, saying she was proud of the way they recovered.

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."

In the men's race, Oxford's William Warr - who raced for Cambridge in 2015 - had to banish from his mind months of criticism and accusations of being a traitor to pull his all for his new team.

His resolution paid off as Oxford managed to keep Cambridge at bay and reclaim their title, winning by around a length and a half.

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

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."

A fleet of celebrities, including Strictly Come Dancing star Ore Oduba, presenter Vernon Kay, comedian Mark Watson and swimmer Rebecca Adlington, also raced each other in a special race to raise money for Cancer Research UK.

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