Rowing: A black day for Blofeld

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The Independent Online
CAMBRIDGE, losers for the last six years, opened their Boat Race campaign with an upset when their best rowing men, on paper, proved weaker on the water in the trial eights yesterday. The crews, named Scaramanga and Blofeld, would have been better titled Rhythm and Revs, victory in the end going to the crew who combined their talents and got the better of the jousting for position.

They were started cleanly and rowed level for about three minutes, but the clues to the eventual outcome were already evident. Richard Muirhead, stroking Scaramanga, was the outstanding lightweight and Chris Elmitt, behind him, set a relaxed rhythm. Dirk Bangert, the 1992 Boat Race stroke, backed by two internationals, Jon Bernstein and Richard Phelps, meanwhile began to rev the engine.

As the crews passed Barn Elms boathouse, they were being steered to the left of the fastest stream. When the turn came, Alex Cutting, in Scaramanga, was warned by the umpire. Obediently moving to the right, he was able to push her stern toward Blofeld and steal a lead of a quarter of a length.

By the Mile Post, the lead had increased and, while Muirhead stayed relaxed, behind him another American, Malcolm Baker, fourth in the Barcelona Olympics, was moving well with the president, James Behrens.

He has no rowing pedigree outside Cambridge, but looks well up to the capacity of the best men around him. This partnership will be critical for Cambridge in the next four months because they probably lack the horsepower of Oxford and will have to make the best of their collective strength.

From the Mile Post to Hammersmith, Muirhead took a further three-quarters of a length and had added another by St Pauls. From then on, it was a procession with an eventual four- length victory for Scaramanga.

CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY TRIAL EIGHTS (Putney to Mortlake): 1 Scaramanga 19min 41sec; 2 Blofeld 19:53 (four lengths).

(Photograph omitted)