HAVING beaten the Cambridge Blue Boat in two head-to-head pieces on the Thames, 2022 Oxford-winning cox Jack Tottem was hoping to do the double by beating his old university in a 2 3/4-mile clash on Sunday.

But in a fantastic race in rough water streamed on the Boat Race website, in which the lead changed hands three times, the Old Monmothian steersman’s Leander Club boat had to give second best this time.

Racing from the Boat Race start to Chiswick Steps, Oxford on the Surrey station were first to show moving out to a half length lead.

But with neither cox giving an inch in the battle for the fastest water, and Olympic medal umpire Sarah Winckless shouting out repeated warnings, Leander slowly began to move back and hit the front on the inside of the Middlesex bend just over three minutes in.

Tottem, whose family home is in Devauden, tried everything to crowd the Dark Blues out as Leander moved out to nearly a length advantage.

But with the water roughening and the river turning Oxford’s way into the Surrey bend, the Dark Blues’ cleaner blade work began to make inroads on the Pink Palace lead.

There was just a seat in it at Hammersmith Bridge and within another minute Oxford had 1/2L.

Heading towards Chiswick Eyot, it was now a battle of survival, with both boats being knocked off their stride by big waves.

Oxford steered right across Leander in the final minute, prompting the umpire to shout yet more warnings and Tottem to appeal at the finish, reached in just under 11 minutes.

But the Dark Blues were ruled not to have interfered and took the verdict by 1 1/4L, which probably puts them as favourites for the 168th Boat Race on Sunday, March 26.

Tottem and his crew can’t dwell on it though, with the world’s oldest rowing time-trial, the Head of the River Race for men’s 8s over the reverse 4 1/4-mile Boat Race course, taking place this coming Saturday (March 18). Watch the Oxford v Leander race on the Boat Race YouTube channel.