London — Another citadel of male achievement came tumbling down when Susan Brown, the first female coxswain of a British university rowing crew, took Oxford to a convincing victory in the 127th Oxford vs. Cambridge boat race this weekend, Monitor contributor Alexander MacLeod reports.
Oxford won the race by eight lengths, the biggest margin by the dark blues of Oxford over their light blue Cambridge rivals in the past 83 years. Much of the credit was given the tiny Susan, who, at 92 pounds, is believed to be the lightest crew member ever to climb aboard a racing shell of either university.
A biochemistry student, the 22-year-old helmswoman steered an impeccable course along the grueling 4.25-mile route.
At the outset, Oxford with six former "blues" aboard, was favored, but there were doubts whether Susan, described by one fan as a "modest waif," could make the most of the rowing talent in her charge.
The doubters need not have worried. She did not fail to spot a single tidal ripple or submerged obstacle, and when Oxford crossed the line 18 minutes 11 seconds after the start, the crew was scarcely panting.
She also broke another record. In the past, the coxswain of the winning boat was always tossed into the Thames. But her partners thought her too fragile and the water too cold for the tradition to be perpetuated. Instead, they held her shoulder high for the cameras.