OXFORD faced off Cambridge in a boat race with a difference on the Thames at the weekend.

Before Sunday’s clash between the universities in London, a less high profile challenge took place by the dreaming spires of Oxford.

Four city firefighters took on their 999 counterparts from Cambridge for a good cause.

And like the Dark Blues, the Rewley Road fire station crew romped home to victory.

The Oxford Times:

The team of Ben Bishop, Simon Tyrrell, Darren Taylor and Spike Miles, above, took on Cambridge on a 1km race up the Thames, finishing at Folly Bridge.

Collections were made by fire personnel for charities Cure Parkinsons and The Firefighters Charity.

Oxfordshire Chief Fire Officer David Etheridge said he hoped the race would become an annual event.

He said: “The whole thing has been brilliant and it was a good opportunity to raise money for two fantastic causes. I would like to think it was the first of many and it was great to have a home victory.”

Firefighter Darren Taylor, 47, who organised the event and led the Oxford boat crew, said the event had been great fun.

He added: “Training in particular was something we really enjoyed because we don’t do things like this often..”

It was good training for the Charlbury resident’s next rowing challenge, a 2,400-mile Pacific voyage.

He and Goring-on-Thames school friend Alex Flynn are raising cash to take part in The Great Pacific Race on June 7, from Monterey, California, to Honolulu, Hawaii.

The Oxford Times:

  • Alex Flynn

Mr Flynn, 42, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease aged 36. He is raising money for Cure Parkinsons as well as the firefighters’ charity. The neurological disease causes the brain to become more damaged over time and can lead to tremors, muscle stiffness and slow movements.

They hope to raise £250,000 for their chosen causes on the trip, which has never been attempted by two British rowers and could take 70 days.

Father-of-three Mr Flynn said: “I am very nervous, but that is a good thing. We are doing a lot of cross-training at the moment to prepare.

“One thing I know will be difficult is coping with my condition while out on an ocean. That will be an enormous challenge.

“But I am confident that Darren is the right man to do it with.”