OLYMPIC gold and silver medalist Malcolm Howard praised his Oxford Blue Boat cox Laurence Harvey’s “cool head” for keeping their crew on course for a gigantic 11-length win in the 160th varsity race.
The former Monmouth School steersman from Chepstow was right opposite Cambridge two-man Luke Juckett when the Light Blue rower clipped an Oxford blade and crabbed, almost ending up in the water.
And Oxford’s Canadian president Harvey said: “Laurence was as cool as a cucumber.
“I have 100 per cent absolute confidence in Laurie Harvey, the guy’s always in the right water. He wasn’t being warned, we could hear Cambridge being warned so it really wasn’t on my mind.
“The most that counts is a cool head like Laurie. He’s just so rock solid.”
He said 20-year-old Physics student Harvey, who received the ritual dunk in the Thames from his winning crew after the race, had kept his nerve and his line while Cambridge, who were warned by umpire Richard Phelps seconds before the clash, courted disaster.
“Ultimately that’s the Boat Race: it’s tough, it’s primal, and when you sign up you know that’s what you’re getting yourself into,” he said.
“They really threw the kitchen sink at us early, and when the river straightened after the first bend our rhythm started to pay dividends. It’s unfortunate that the clash happened but I don’t think it affected the outcome.”
Oxford were nearly three quarters of a length up with the advantage of the Surrey bend to come when the clash happened just over five minutes into the 2014 BNY Mellon Boat Race.
The lead had already changed hands three times by that point, but the clash sealed the deal, as Cambridge effectively missed five strokes and damage to American Juckett’s rigger meant he couldn’t pull at 100 per cent for the next three miles of the four and one quarter Putney to Mortlake course.
Hot favourites Oxford won the toss and chose Surrey and the advantage of the giant mid-course bend, and Cambridge knew they would have to take advantage of the first Middlesex bend to pressure the Dark Blues.
Oxford took an early two seat lead off the blocks, but Cambridge, rating a stroke a minute higher, squeezed back through to lead by a third of a length after two minutes.
Approaching the mile post as the river straightened, Oxford pushed to get back on terms and quickly moved out to three quarter length when Light Blue’s cox Ian Middleton strayed a fraction too close to the Dark Blues.
With Phelps warning him to move back on line, his crew paid the price, with Juckett thrown dramatically off his seat as his blade caught in the water and the handle rammed into him, almost being thrown clean out of the boat.
From that point on, Oxford were consistently a mile per hour faster and Old Monmothian Harvey was able to sit opposite GB Olympic bronze medal 8 strokeman Constantine Louloudis in a cruise to victory, as they stretched away to the biggest winning margin since 1973, finishing 32 seconds in front.
Cambridge appealed that the race should have been restarted, but the umpire rejected their claim, saying Harvey and Oxford were in their own water when the clash happened.
The result reduces Cambridge's overall lead in the Boat Race, which dates back to 1829, to 81 wins to 78, with one dead-heat.