ROWER Nick Ryan has described the “loud and vocal” atmosphere during the Lightweight Boat Race in London.

The Hexham teenager was at the bow of the winning Oxford University crew which defeated rivals Cambridge.

The contest for lightweight crews took place as part of the build-up to the main Boat Race, which will take place this Sunday.

And for the first time in its 45-year history, it took place over the full championship course on the River Thames.

Crowds of cheering supporters looked-on as Nick and his eight-man crew took the lead on the Surrey bend, and held on to cross the finish line ahead of Cambridge.

“It was a great experience,” said the 19-year-old. “It was a privilege to race on the Tideway. There was a real sense of occasion and it was a day I will never forget.”

Oxford won the toss and selected the Surrey side of the Tideway, but it was Cambridge who took they early lead, which they maintained past the Middlesex bend, and Craven Cottage, the home of Fulham Football Club.

Despite the prestigious nature of the event, Nick, a former member of Hexham’s Queen Elizabeth Rowing Club, said his main focus was on the job at hand.

“We all had to focus,” he said. “We had a fair idea that Cambridge would go off fairly hard, and we had to make sure we gave ourselves a chance to keep in touch with them.”

Oxford began to make up the gap, and with the Surrey bend in their favour, moved into the lead.

Nick said: “We were confident that we had the faster mid-race pace, but it was a really tough race.

"When the two boats are side-by-side it’s really intense. We were able to enjoy it at the end, and winning was a fantastic experience, but you have to really focus for the full four-and-a-half miles.

"We knew the course because we did a lot of training on it in the build up to the race, but on the day, I was surprised at how loud and vocal it was. I could hear all the supporters really going for it. It made me realise the enormity of the occasion.”

The day was made extra special for the Ryan family, for Nick’s sister Lucy was part of the winning Tideway Scullers, the women’s eight which defeated the reserve Oxford University women’s crew, Osiris.