Durham victorious in 12th University Boat Race

Honours belonged to Durham University in the 12th University Boat Race, with their rowers winning all four events in an afternoon of hard-fought races.

The 2008 event, which pitched the country’s top two universities for rowing against one another on an 1,800 metre course on the River Tyne, was watched by thousands of spectators who lined Newcastle and Gateshead’s quaysides and the Gateshead Millennium bridge.

With the River Tyne bathed in bright sunshine, Durham’s first victory came in the Freshwomen’s eight. There was very little between the two crews as they headed for the finish line, but Durham put in a late charge to win the race by two lengths.

In the Freshmen’s eight, Durham led from the start. They were a length and a half in front coming out of the Swing Bridge, and went on to finish strongly by three and a half lengths.

The most emphatic victory of the afternoon belonged to Durham’s Senior Women’s eight, who stormed away from Newcastle to win the race by a distance, despite tricky conditions at the start of the race, where a brisk breeze had created some choppy water.

With the 2008 title already decided, it was left to Newcastle’s Senior Men’s eight to try to salvage a result from the final race of the day. In the most closely fought race of the afternoon, in the early stages, Newcastle were in front by about a quarter of a length.

Heading for the finish line, it was neck and neck, but disaster struck for Newcastle in the very last seconds of the race. Under the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, they momentarily went off course, resulting in a clash of oars with the Durham boat, a set-back which ultimately cost them the race, as Durham went on to win by a length and a half.

Earlier, in the Schools’ race, the Newcastle boat – with junior World Champion, Kieren Emery, rowing at stroke – won by a good five lengths.

A delighted Rob Stark, President of Durham University Boat Club, said: ‘It’s fantastic to have won all four races. I’m particularly pleased that the Freshmen and Freshwomen won their races, because it signifies that we have a very bright future. The results are testament to the strength and depth we have in our squad, and I’m absolutely thrilled with their performances.’

Dan Cupit, President of Newcastle University Boat Club, said: ‘Obviously we’re disappointed, but that’s the way it goes, and we’ll be back next year more determined than ever’.

Chairman of the Boat Race Executive Committee, Colin Blackburn, said: ‘It has been a very good day. The fine weather has brought a lot of people out to watch the University Boat Race, and it didn’t disappoint!

‘I think Newcastle were always going to have a difficult task against Durham, whose rowers are the best in the country. It was very unfortunate that the last minute clash of oars probably cost Newcastle a victory in the Senior Men’s race’, he added.

Durham University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Chris Higgins, said: ‘Our students are truly remarkable in the sport of rowing, and I am very proud of them. We have won the British Universities rowing championship for the last four years, and of course they have represented Durham spectacularly well here today’.

Attending his first Boat Race, Professor Chris Brink, Vice-Chancellor of Newcastle University, said: ‘I would like to congratulate all of the rowers who have taken part today. These are the top two rowing universities in the country, and so there is certainly no shame in coming second.

‘This has been a most enjoyable event, and I am pleased to see so many people participating in the spectacle’, he said.

Results in full

Schools Eights: Newcastle won by five lengths
Freshwomen’s Eights (the Taylor Trophy): Durham University won by two lengths
Freshmen’s Eights (The Renforth Trophy): Durham won by three and a half lengths
Senior Women’s Eights (the Chambers Trophy): Durham won by a distance
Senior Men’s Eights (the Clasper Trophy): Durham won by one and a half lengths

Newcastle University