Boat Race 2019: Former Olympic champion James Cracknell helps Cambridge power to win over Oxford

7 Apr

James Cracknell made Boat Race history by becoming the oldest-ever winner as Cambridge beat Oxford by a length.

The double-Olympic gold medallist and six-time world champion, 46, powered to victory with Cambridge – an achievement dubbed ‘off the scale’ by his former Great Britain team-mate Matthew Pinsent.

Cracknell and Cambridge celebrate the victory

Eight years older than the previous record holder, Cambridge’s 1992 cox Andy Probert, Cracknell suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2010 when fracturing his skull in a bike accident.

But after last week confirming the end of his marriage to Beverley Turner, the Peterhouse College masters student pulled off an extraordinary personal achievement, that friend Ben Fogle called “the start of another chapter in his life”.

Cracknell conceded more than 25 years on some of his team-mates, but belied his age to leave friends and former colleagues in awe.

“This is the start of another chapter in his life,” Fogle said.

“I think James wants this to be his flag, he wants this to be the moment that people say ‘James aged 46 did something most people doubted’.”

Cracknell’s fellow former Olympian Pinsent added: “It’s extraordinary that he’s got himself into the shape, at 46, of a 24-year-old.

“I only know one person who could do that, and it’s James. It’s just off the scale.”

Cracknell’s life was turned upside down when he fractured his skull in a cycling accident in Arizona nine years ago.

Cambridge celebrate winning the 165th Boat Race

But the fearsome competitor refused to bow to that setback, battling back to top form and fitness.

“On the start I thought ‘I’ve missed this’,” Cracknell said in the wake of victory.

“The first few minutes were great, but they just didn’t drop. To be honest the endurance wasn’t a problem.

“If I had any doubt it would have been my sprinting. I just made sure I stuck it in and hopefully we had enough in the bank.”

Cambridge won the Women’s Boat Race for the third year in a row, beating Oxford by five lengths.

Cambridge also won the women’s race

The Light Blues cemented their dominance over their traditional rivals, with new coach Robert Weber’s team storming into an early lead and refusing to relent.

Cambridge stroke Lily Lindsay has rowed internationally for the USA, but insisted nothing compared to a Boat Race victory.

“There’s nothing like this,” Lindsay told the BBC. “Training alongside my team-mates has been unbelievable. It’s been a pleasure.”