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Post war and the arrival of television

Post war and the arrival of television
1946 - 1975

Rowing had continued at both universities during the war years and in 1946 several of the available oarsmen had rowed in the war time races. 1946, then, saw resumption of the old rivalry. Cambridge with a weight advantage were favourites but failed to live up to their billing, allowing Oxford to lead from the start to record a three length victory.

The following year, with a similar weight advantage, Cambridge didn’t make the same mistake, winning by ten lengths. In a sluggish river the winners recorded one of the slowest ever winning times of 23 minutes 1 second. Despite the slow time this was the start of a five year winning streak by the light blues, a streak that saw them lower the course record to 17 minutes 50 seconds in 1948.

The audience for the first fully televised race in 1949 were in for a treat, though not many households actually had a TV set. Oxford stroked by Christopher Davidge looked strong but Cambridge with three Olympians on board had a good engine room. Oxford on Middlesex led by over a length at Hammersmith. Cambridge crept back along their Surrey bend but didn’t look to have done enough. The Cambridge stroke, David Jennens pushed at Barnes bridge to bring the crews level and with both crews sprinting to the line won by a quarter of a length. This was the first time a crew on the Surrey station had come from behind at Barnes bridge to win.

Davidge lost again in 1950, and to Jennens once more in 1951 when a howling gale waterlogged Oxford on the Surrey station within a minute of the start. The umpire, the Bishop of Willsden, declared a ‘no race’ and the re-row, on the following Monday, was won easily by Cambridge. The winning Cambridge crew then accepted an invitation to the United States where they beat both Yale and Harvard to win the Revere Bowl.

Finally in 1952, racing in a blizzard with strong winds and blinding snow Davidge put in a superb performance at stroke, coming from behind to be level at Barnes bridge, going on to win by a canvas.

Cambridge then went on another winning streak, interrupted by Oxford in the hundredth race in 1954, but lasting until 1958. During the 1955 race JG Mcleod of Oxford blacked out and Cambridge went on to win by 16 lengths.

Oxford experienced a mini mutiny in 1959 when some of the existing blues tried to oust president Ronnie Howard and coach Jumbo Edwards, however their attempt failed when Cambridge supported the president. Ultimately Oxford went on to win by six lengths. 1960 was another Oxford success and the winning crew, minus their injured president David Rutherford, went on to represent Great Britain at the 1960 Rome Olympics. The majority of this crew then raced again in 1961 but despite being favourites the two Harvard men in the Cambridge boat ensured an unexpected light blue victory.

The early 1960’s saw the race see-saw between the two universities despite the introduction of new training methods and an increasing number of American rowers. The most notable aspects of some of these races was the appalling weather, especially in 1963. Oxford then won 3 in a row between 1965 and 1967, this was the first time they had achieved such a feat since 1913. 1967 also saw the introduction for Oxford of a man who went on to shape one of their greatest winning runs, Dan Topolski.

Patrick Delafield, Cambridge president in 1968 went on to fight back, and fight back very effectively, starting a run of six successive, convincing wins for the light blues.

In 1974 Oxford finally won again, with American Olympian David Sawyier as president, while Cambridge had lost some of their blues to academic pressure. Dark blue rejoicing was short lived as the returning blues of Cambridge won a hard fought race by three and three quarter lengths the following year. However the light blues were soon to be on the other side of the fence, with no win to celebrate for the next 11 years.

Over the thirty years from 1946 to 1975 Cambridge won two to one, with 20 successes to Oxford’s 10, making the overall score Oxford 52, Cambridge 68, with one dead-heat.


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