As the losers of last year's race, it was Cambridge who challenged Oxford to another boat race at Putney yesterday. Oxford grabbed the opportunity. So the 150th Boat Race will take place on Sunday, 28 March at 6pm, and the presidents have the unenviable task of following in the wake of the closest race since the match was first held in 1829.
Oxford's Sam McLennan, a veteran of the 2003 race, is the first casualty. He has struggled with a stress fracture in his back all winter and failed to make selection. He hopes to row in the reserve crew, Isis.
Cambridge's Wayne Pommen was robbed of his seat 48 hours before the 2003 race when he fractured his wrist in a collision with the harbour master's launch. He has since given up the possibility of a seat in the Canadian Olympic team to return to the Fens, and he introduced a talented international crew yesterday.
The Australian Kris Coventry and the American Hugo Mallinson return from last year, with the German international Seb Mayer who was in the 2002 Cambridge crew also making an appearance.
They are complimented by four men from last year's victorious Goldie crew. Of these only Chris Le Neve Foster and Andrew Shannon are home grown: Steffen Buschbacher is a German-born American who, with Pommen and Mallinson, rowed at Harvard, and Nate Kirk is a Yale graduate.
Oxford are also diversely talented. Basil Dixon, Dave Livingston and Henry Morris plus the cox Acer Nethercott were Blues in 2003. The new boys are mainly graduates - Andrew Stubbs from Newcastle University, Chris Kennelly from Berkeley, California, Peter Reed from the University of the West of England and Joel Scrogin from Brown University in Rhode Island. McLennan, born in Australia but a graduate from Wisconsin, confesses that he would have had a fight to get in the boat even is he didn't have a stress fracture.
Cambridge produced some impressive results in November's Fours Head, and they gave the Canadian and US national teams a fright at the Head of the Charles in Boston in October. But this is no guide to getting it right on the day. Neither crew knows what their seating order is yet. The war of nerves ratchets up from now on.
BOAT RACE CREWS
OXFORD: *D Livingston (Hampton and Christ Church), J Scrogin (Brown University, United States, and Brasenose); C Smith (Prince Edward Sch Harare, Zim and St Catherine's), *B Dixon (Bedford and Pembroke), *H Morris (Radley and Magdalen), C Kennelly (Univ California Berkeley, US, and Oriel), P Reed (Univ of West of England and Wolfson), A Stubbs (Newcastle Univ and Hertford), *A Nethercott, cox (Mark Hall Comprehensive and Univ).
CAMBRIDGE: S Buschbacher (Harvard, US and St Catharine's), *Kris Coventry (Univ of Melbourne, Aus and Queens'), N Kirk (Yale, US, and St Edmund's), *S Mayer (Albert-Ludwigs Univ, Ger and Caius); C Le Neve Foster (Royal GS Guildford and St Catharine's), *H Mallinson (Harvard and St Catharine's), W Pommen (Harvard and Pembroke), A Shannon (Robert Gordon Univ and St Edmund's. K Richardson, cox (Bedford Modern and Peterhouse).
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