Crews' rising tide of expectation

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Oxford are heavier, Cambridge are older, but only on Saturday will we find out which rows the faster over four and a half miles. Now that the training is over and both crews are on The Tideway in London it is down to fine tuning and statistics, and that leaves plenty of scope for speculation.

Oxford, looking as if they had been on the bottle (not the sponsor's product, Beefeater Gin) but pure spring water to bloat the gut, weighed in heavier than their Light Blue rivals. The Dark Blues averaged five pounds a man heavier at 14st 7lb.

No sensible prediction can be squeezed from this data. Indeed, at 4-1 on, Cambridge are favourites, with Oxford tipped at 5-2.

Rowing is about applying muscle to the natural levers in a mechanically simple way to move boats. Muscle is heavy, and long levers are more efficient, so rowers are among the tallest and heaviest athletes. But the differences between the crews will be a measure of the amount they have trained to sustain this muscle power over the University Boat Race distance, and how well they do it together. None of this information was available yesterday.

Penny Chuter, the Oxford chief coach, pointed out that although international lightweights are limited to 11st 3lb and have significantly lower lung power than the big men they can, in all but the worst conditions, row at about the same speeds. The current world record holder for the coxless four is a lightweight crew from the London Rowing Club and one of their coaches was Robin Williams, now Chuter's opposite number for Cambridge.

So, while the coaches were pleased to see their men being fted by the media, they were little interested in the outcome of yesterday's weigh- in. They will instead be drawing together all the information they can on how the other boat is likely to move in each phase of the race and see what they can do to answer it, and surpass it.

OXFORD V CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY BOAT RACE (Saturday, 1 April) Crew weights: Oxford: Bow: J Kawaja (Upper Canada College, Princeton, US, and Mansfield), age 23, weight 191.7lb; 2 G Rosengren (Vallejo Senior High School, US, Harvard and New College) 23, 199; 3 B Mavra (MG Belgrade, Imperial College London and Jesus) 25, 209; 4 L St Reed (St Mark's School, US, Princeton and St Catherine's) 25, 215; 5 J B McLanahan (Middlesex School, Massachusetts, Yale, US, and Pembroke) 25, 197.7; 6 Hugh S Corroon (Salisbury School, Harvard, US, Munich University and Keble) 28, 198; 7 D R H Clegg, (Radley College, UCL and Keble) 24, 202.6; Stroke: J-I Throndsen (Drammen Gynasium, Norway, UCLA and St Peter's) 23, 196.5; Cox: A C Chapman (Lady Elaneor Holles School and St Hilda's) 19, 99.4. Average weight: 14st 7lb (91.9kg).

Cambridge: Bow: R D Taylor (Shrewsbury and Trinity Hall) 21, 200; 2 R C Phelphs (Latymer Upper School and St Edmund's) 29, 197.2; 3 S B Newton (Radley College and Emmanuel) 24, 206.1; 4 M H W Parish (Eton College, University of London and St Edmund's) 23, 203; 5 D E Bangert (Deutschhaus Gymnasium Wurzburg, University of Wurzburg and Fitzwilliam) 27, 182.4; 6 S A Brownlee (St Bedes College, Christchurch, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, NZ, and St Edmund's) 26, 204.4; 7 M Banovic (School of Applied Arts, Zagreb, Croatia, North Eastern University, Boston, US, and St Edmund's) 27, 208.4; Stroke: M P C Barnet (Harrogate Grammar School and Queen's) 21, 189.1. Cox: R S Slatford (King's College ,Wimbledon, Hatfield College, Durham University and Hughes Hall) 25, 113.8; Average weight: 14st 2lb (89.7kg).