Australian rower Joshua Hooper endured one of the biggest defeats in the historic university boat race as Oxford claimed back-to-back victories over Cambridge.
Oxford won Sunday’s controversial race on the River Thames by 11 lengths, the biggest winning margin since 1973, to trim Cambridge’s lead in the series since 1829 to 81-78.
Hooper, Cambridge’s No.7 and the sole Australian in the 6.8km race, saw his team’s hopes slip away early with a clash of blades just five minutes in.
The 160th running of the race was effectively over when Cambridge No.2 Luke Juckett slipped from his position, just moments after he had clashed oars with Sam O’Connor, one of two New Zealanders in the victorious Oxford crew.
Cambridge lodged a protest over the incident but it was rejected.
“It’s not fun to lose that way,” Hooper told AAP.
“I definitely thought we had something going there to win but there’s not much we can do about it.
“Once you lose momentum like that it takes a while to pick it back up and it’s pretty tricky but well done to Oxford.”
Land Economy student Hooper, who has aspirations to row for Australia at the Rio 2016 Olympics, intends to compete in the race again next year.
“It’s been an awesome experience and I’m looking forward to having another crack,” Hooper said.
Adding to Hooper’s pain was the fact two trans-Tasman rivals were on the winning team.
O’Connor also featured in the victorious 2013 crew while London Olympic bronze medallist Storm Uru enjoyed success at his first attempt.
Uru said Oxford had prepared beforehand for a possible clash in the choppy water of the Thames.
“Going through the history there are clashes and some people come through better off and some worse off. Luckily we came off better,” Uru told AAP.
Despite light rain and cool weather, thousands of spectators packed the banks of the Thames for one of the UK’s great sporting traditions.
Oxford won in a time of 18 minutes and 36 seconds.