TWO former Yarm School pupils and Great British rowing partners went head-to-head in this year’s Boat Race between Cambridge and Oxford on Sunday – and it was the light blues of Cambridge who triumphed.

Katie Anderson and Sarah Portsmouth first started rowing together as pupils at Yarm School, and represented GB in the under 18 women’s pair at the Coupe de la Jeunesse in 2018, winning a bronze medal.

The pair parted ways in 2018 when Katie left Yarm for Brasenose College, Oxford to read economics. By 2019/20, Katie had progressed into the prestigious Oxford blue boat, while Sarah, a year younger, continued to row for Yarm, her sights set on Cambridge’s light blues.

In 2019 she headed to Newnham College, Cambridge to read architecture. She achieved her goal of being invited to represent her university in the blue boat, and it was Sarah's Cambridge crew who triumphed over Oxford in Sunday's race – the light blues' fourth successive victory.

The men's and women's races were moved away from their usual residence along the Thames to Ely in Cambridgeshire for the first time since the Second World War due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the narrower Great Ouse presented moments of drama in both.

Oxford's women were repeatedly warned by the umpire for encroaching on their rivals’ line, but Cambridge held their nerve, establishing a slender lead after halfway which they never surrendered.

Dylan Whitaker, the winning cox, said: “That was close but we knew what our plan was, we kept it calm and loose and it worked.”

Cambridge celebrate winning the 75th Womens Boat Race on the River Great Ouse near Ely in Cambridgeshire

Cambridge celebrate winning the 75th Women's Boat Race on the River Great Ouse near Ely in Cambridgeshire

Sarah Tisdall added: “That’s the closest boat race the females have had. Awesome day for women’s sport and really proud of this team.”

The race was watched closely by Katie and Sarah's former coaches and teachers at Yarm, while the rowers said they were proud to compete against each other.

“Most of my best memories and greatest achievements in rowing while at Yarm were with Sarah, so to have the opportunity to go head-to-head in such an important race, and another milestone in our rowing careers, is really special," said Katie.

“We are still great friends and I’m proud to row against her.”

Sarah added: “It feels great to know that Katie and I have both achieved seats in the blue boats – it was something we spoke about a lot in school when Katie received her offer from Oxford and I was applying for Cambridge.”

Both athletes balance demanding university degrees alongside 12 training sessions a week and a gruelling selection process.

Yarm School has a proud reputation for producing rowers who go on to compete at the highest level. Since 2000, six Yarm students have represented their country at either full or under 23 level and a further nine at under 18.

Olympic champion Kat Copeland started her rowing career at Yarm before taking gold in the lightweight women’s double sculls final at the London 2012 Olympics.

Andy Guest, master in charge of rowing at Yarm School, said: “I am absolutely thrilled for Katie and Sarah. I have been privileged to coach some exceptional athletes and since the investment in the new boat house the facilities for our rowers are second to none.

“All the coaches and I thoroughly enjoyed working with Katie and Sarah when they were students at the school. They are two very talented rowers and deserve their success.”

Cambridge also pipped Oxford in the men's race.