Oxford University's president Sjoerd Ham-burger admitted his crew might have gone off to fast, in their surprise Boat Race defeat by Cambridge on Saturday.

The Dark Blues, who started as favourites – although not a strong as the odds suggested –- to make it three wins in a row, could not shake off their rivals in the early stages and ended up losing by one and a third lengths.

After winning the toss and choosing the Surrey station, Oxford led from the 'go', remained ahead at the mile and were two seconds to the good at Hammersmith Bridge, with their long Surrey bend ahead of them.

Cambridge, though, had a terrier look about them and never allowed Oxford to draw clear.

Producing two good pushes, they even came back a little and were only just down at Chiswick Steps, with their favoured Middlesex bend ahead.

Doubts must have been creeping into the Dark Blue minds and Cambridge were level at the Bandstand.

Oxford showed that terrier spirit and were just two seconds down at Barnes Bridge and still in touch.

Effort and counter effort then followed and, it was only 400 metres from the finish that Cam-bridge coach Chris Nilsson began to feel really secure.

The inevitable “what went wrong” question came from Oxford supporters.

Hamburger said. “We just couldn’t finish it. Perhaps we had given too much at the beginning. All credit to Cambridge, they raced an incredible race and were better than we were today.”

Oxford coach Sean Bowden, seeking his first hat-trick of wins, said: “Rhythmically I thought we rowed well. The quality of the rowing was good and I can’t fault what we did.

“We just didn’t have a big enough engine to push away when we needed to. We thought it was going to be close, so the result isn’t a massive surprise.”

Oxford’s American millionaire Winklevoss twins, Tyler and Cameron, were philosophical.

Tyler said “We gave our best, but it didn’t work out for us”. Cameron said: “A fantastic event. It’s awesome to be able to take to take part in something of this size and attitude.”

As to next year, Bowden said: “You’re always thinking, was there something we did wrong in our preparations?

“But we had a very good run in with no problems. It was a close race. We’ll look back and see what to re-examine and focus on for next year.”

The umpire Simon Harris, a lightweight who lost twice with Cambridge and has watched Oxford win in his three races as umpire, said “It feels as though I have finally lost my virginity.”