He’s a risk-taker – Ollie Parish hails role of brother Jasper in Cambridge win

Cambridge claimed victory in the Boat Race (Steven Paston/PA) (PA Wire)
Cambridge claimed victory in the Boat Race (Steven Paston/PA) (PA Wire)

Cambridge captain Ollie Parish was elated after brother Jasper’s risky decision proved the pivotal point that won the underdogs the 168th men’s Boat Race against Oxford.

Jasper had tasted victory as cox with Cambridge’s women in 2022 and this year switched boats to join his sibling for the men’s competition.

Fighting choppy conditions and gusting winds, Jasper made a bold move when he elected to steer Cambridge close to the riverbank near Fulham’s Craven Cottage, taking an unorthodox line in the direction of flatter water.

It worked, allowing the Light Blues boat to pull ahead of Oxford en route to victory by 1 1/3 length.

“To be able to experience that with my brother is just unreal. This is the moment of my life, and it probably will be for the rest of my life. I can’t put it into words, absolutely amazing,” Ollie told the PA news agency, clutching Cambridge’s fourth trophy in five editions of the men’s race.

“He’s a risk-taker, he’s a competitive guy, he’s a racer. That’s why he’s in the boat. At the end of the day he’s a racer and he’s going to take risks and it absolutely paid off.”

Pundits pointed out this race, and particularly 59.2kg engineering undergraduate Jasper’s role in it, highlighted the importance of the occasionally undersung role of coxswain.

At the end of the day he's a racer and he's going to take risks and it absolutely paid off.

Ollie Parish on brother Jordan

Ollie readily agreed, saying: “It’s really, really valuable. He’s a technician, he calls us out, gives a lot of technical feedback, gives a lot of motivation during the course.

“But also a key moment in the race for steering. He steered us out of the rough water and into the flats, slightly less stream there so it should be slower but he made the call and because the water was so much better out there we went faster, and we won the race in that moment.”

Cambridge got out to a difficult start 20 minutes before the race even began when they discovered their rudder was not working properly.

Jasper, said his brother, remained “ice cold” in his resolve to keeping the crew relaxed as they dialled chief coach Rob Baker, who came to fix the issue.

This race marked 20 years since two sets of brothers – Matt and Ben Smith and David and James Livingston – competed against each other for the first time.

Ollie agreed the brothers being in the same boat was probably a relief to their parents, who met in a boat when mum coxed dad at the University of London.

Father Matthew Parish is himself a Boat Race winner for Cambridge and represented GB at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, both boys growing up rowing on the Thames for St Paul’s School.

Ollie added: “I’m absolutely ecstatic. To win here on the Tideway after learning to row here, I’ve been rowing here for 10 years, and with my brother, absolutely amazing.

“I’m sure [my parents] are very proud. They’ve always been really supportive of us. It’s really an honour to follow in their footsteps.”

It was a clean sweep on Sunday afternoon for the Light Blues, who also won the 77th women’s race and both reserves races.

Caoimhe Dempsey, who racked up her third win for Cambridge – and first as their women’s president – told BBC Sport: “I genuinely haven’t caught my breath. That was just such a whirlwind of a race, there was so much going on, the conditions changed so much from start to finish.

“I’m so proud. It’s a completely different experience as a president, and it’s a completely different experience sitting in the stroke seat but it’s still sinking in, honestly. I’m just so proud of the girls. That was a tough race, there was so much going on and they handled it so well.

“They’re just so tenacious and strong and brave and full credit to Oxford, they raced an amazing race, they really didn’t let us go and they had an amazing start. They could handle the conditions so well. It’s just such an amazing thing to be a part of.”