LONDON -- Oxford won the annual university Boat Race on Sunday, beating defending champion Cambridge by 1 1/2 lengths to gain revenge for its loss in last year's event.
With an estimated 250,000 people lining the banks of the River Thames in freezing conditions, the heavier Oxford crew featuring two Olympians from the 2012 London Games -- including Canadian stroke Malcolm Howard -- never trailed on the 6.8-kilometre course.
"We were aggressive from the start and stuck to the race plan," said Howard. "Cambridge did not give up, and we fought for every inch we got. Our total focus was on beating Cambridge."
Howard, a 30-year-old from Victoria, won Olympic gold for Canada in the men's eight at Beijing and silver in London.
He became the third Canadian ever to stroke a Boat Race crew, following Kip McDaniel for Cambridge (2006) and Mike Evans for Oxford (1984).
The victory Sunday cut Cambridge's overall lead to 81-77 in one of England's oldest and most prestigious sporting events.
"It was fun, tough but that was what we expected," said Oskar Zorrilla, Oxford's Colombia-born American coxswain who was tossed into the river by the jubilant crew after the race. "We had a plan and we stuck to it ruthlessly."
The event in southwest London passed off without incident, unlike last year when the race was disrupted by a protester who jumped into the water and swam between the crews before an Oxford crew member collapsed in his boat after the finish.
Royal Marines were stationed in inflatable boats on the river this time to ensure there was no repeat of those extraordinary scenes.
"It's a bit different to last year," said Oxford six seat Karl Hudspith, who was competing in his third straight race and celebrating his 25th birthday. "A year ago, I was carrying my friend's body onto a stretcher.
"This was a real Boat Race."
Oxford's eight was rowing in a boat named "Acer," after the university's three-time Boat Race cox Dr. Acer Nethercott, who died in January from brain cancer aged 35.
They made the better start but couldn't shrug off Cambridge until two-thirds along the course from Putney to Mortlake, when the "Dark Blues" were able to move directly in front of their rivals to cancel out the final bend at Barnes Bridge.
With some spectators keeping pace on bicycles along the banks, Oxford found a steady rhythm, the crew raising their arms aloft as they crossed the line.
"Oxford put together a really fantastic race," said Cambridge president George Nash, the only British rower in his crew. "Eventually, they put in one too many moves. They asked too many questions and we were just unable to come up with the goods.
"It is something that will replay in my head for the rest of my life."