CBSN

English boating tradition modernized a bit by adding women

Native New Yorker Caryn Davies says it was about time women rowers turn the tide on a centuries-old tradition in Great Britain.

A stretch of the Thames River has long been the battleground of the boat race between Oxford and Cambridge universities men's teams.

For nearly 90 years, the women's race had been banished to a backwater, until now.

The demand for equal rights came from its new sponsor, Newton Finance, and its CEO and mother of nine Helena Morrissey.

"As a little girl I grew up watching the men's boat race, as I'll always call it now, and you know with my parents and my sister and I really didn't think, 'Where were the women?' Now, I realize how important it is to have equality in sport and in business world," Morrissey said.

It's a rather modern concept here, as Davies has learned.

"Women's sport is, it's just plain not equal. At least, not the way it is in the States," Davies said. "It was a real eye opener coming here and realizing, 'Oh, ok, our locker room is actually a third of the size of the men's. Ok, we'll squish in. We'll make it work.'"

Throughout her life, she has made it work. Davies is no stranger to competing on the world stage.

She's already won two Olympic gold's and one silver and is the most decorated oarswoman in the United states.

Today, at 32, she's the oldest competitor on either team, and told CBS News this race presents a whole new set of challenges, like during a recent training session when Oxford's boat sank.

The course women have competed on in the past was relatively straight. The new one meanders - there are lots of turns. It's also three times longer than previous races.

On race day, however, the distance that mattered was how far Davies' Oxford team pulled away from Cambridge, with every last ounce of energy they had.

"I'm just exhausted," Davies said afterwards. "I don't know if that race is harder than any I've ever rowed before or if I'm just getting older, but I would say that was the hardest I've ever rowed."

They rowed right into the history books, both teams, cutting through wind and waves and outdated traditions to celebrate nothing less than a rowing revolution.