Little to choose between the Blues

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That the Oxford crew was a pound and a quarter heavier per man than Cambridge at the weigh-in yesterday will not determine which way the Beefeater Trophy goes on Saturday. Taken over the 141 races in the past, the older, heavier crew tends to win. For 1996, Oxford is the heavier, Cambridge the older.

The crews are remarkably similar altogether, each is stroked by an undergraduate Englishman in his second year, and each is steered by a coxswain new to the course.

Cambridge remain slight favourites in the Tideway imagination, but much of this is habit because the Light Blues have been substantially stronger for the past three years. However, this time they have had only two public matches as an eight. It is a strong, well-drilled crew, sympathetically and cleverly stroked by James Ball. The crew has undoubted speed from the start and the question is whether it has the legs to go the whole way, especially in rough conditions.

The Oxford crew races whenever the coach, Daniel Topolski, tells them to, which is almost every day. His instinct is to throw them in at the deep end in smooth water, and then to drive them through it towards a good performance. His crew is less fast off the start, but may have the legs for it over the second half.

142ND OXFORD AND CAMBRIDGE BOAT RACE (Putney to Mortlake, Saturday, 3.30pm): OXFORD UNIVERSITY: E J Bellamy (Hampton, Durham Univ and Keble) bow, 13st 3lb; D R H Clegg (Radley, University College, London and Keble) 13st 12lb; J F Hammond (Harvard Univ and New College) 13st 51/2lb; D R West (Dulwich College, King's College, London and St Catherine's College) 13st 3lb; B Mann (Yale Univ and Keble) 15st1/2lb; J W Howick (Dartmouth College, Concordia Univ and Keble) 13st 4lb; P A Berger (Univ of Pennsylvania and University College), 14st 131/2lb; A R A Frost (Eton College and Oriel) stroke 14st 21/2lb; T B Kristol (Harvard Univ and Oriel) 7st 71/2lb. Crew average: 13st 125/8lb.

CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY: J R Elliott (Winchester College and Trinity) 13st 71/2lb; M P C Barnett (Harrogate GS and Queens') 13st 81/2lb; N J Burfitt (Wimbledon College, Imperial College and St George's Medical School, and Emmanuel) 13st 81/2lb; S J Dawson-Bowling (King's Canterbury and Magdalene) 14st 12lb; E Ayer (Harvard Univ and St Edmunds) 15st 6lb; H G C Clarke (Taunton School and Trinity Hall) 13st 1lb; R M Waller (Emanuel School and Downing) 13st 1lb; J F E Ball (King's School, Chester and Robinson) stroke 13st 3lb; K Whyman (King's School, Chester and Peterhouse) 8st 1/2lb. Crew average: 13st 113/8lb.