Over the century and a half of Boat Race history fortune has favoured the heavy and on that information alone Oxford would start favourites, but Cambridge, who came back from 17 years in the wilderness with an emphatic win in 1993, have been building on their success with thorough preparation and amalgamation of their talented line-up.
Oxford have stumbled in the last fortnight, with the replacement of Richard Tinkler as coach by Fred Smallbone merely the outward evidence of tension. Man for man Cambridge have the superior squad and, under Tinkler, Oxford spent the winter trying to build a cohesive unit. The trouble has been that the Cambridge coaches have set the standard, of getting the most speed from the least effort, by which everyone else in the country is measured.
Matthew Parish, in the No 6 seat for Cambridge, points out that in the national trials in April the top members of the Molesey and Leander Club squads would probably perform better than the Cambridge group, but side by side in eights Cambridge have humiliated both of them.
The Oxford president, Kingsley Poole, has made all the right moves to produce a crew who believe more in the whole than in individuals, by dismantling the system which gave freedom to acknowledged winners to sign up when it suited them, and has done much to create an 'all for one' spirit.
Both the coxswains, Martin Haycock (Cambridge) and Liz Chick (Oxford) have won before. In 1992 Chick was handed the advantage of learning from the rehearsal that her opponent would stray to the left of what the Oxford camp deemed to be the centre stream. She was able to push Cambridge well out of the fast water and gained a crucial quarter- length when she turned back into the stream at Barn Elms.
A year later Oxford were favourites, but Martin Haycock talked his Cambridge crew into the most spectacular first two miles of any crew in Boat Race history. He only regained his seat two weeks ago and still talks like a man with something to prove, but this time his crew have the habit of winning and will depend less on him.
OXFORD UNIVERSITY: Bow H J MacMillan (Eton and Worcester) 14st 5 1/2 lb; No 2 C N Mahne (Eton and St Catherine's) 14 st 10 1/2 lb; No 3 J G Michels (St John's College High School, US; La Salle, US; and Pembroke) 13st 4 1/2 lb; No 4 A S Gordon-Brown (Hyde Park High School, SA; University of Cape Town, SA; and Keble) 14st 12 1/2 lb; No 5 D R H Clegg (Radley College, University College, London, and Keble) 13st 12lb; No 6 Sverke Lorgen (Spelkavik VGS, Norway; Harvard, US; and University) 16st 1lb; No 7 Snorre Lorgen (Lycee Corneille, Fr; Harvard, US; Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Nuffield) 15st 8 1/2 lb; Stroke K K Poole (president) (Magdalen College School and St John's) 13st 2 1/2 lb; Cox H E Chick (Helsby HS and Christ Church) 7st 10lb.
CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY: Bow R D Taylor (Shrewsbury and Trinity Hall) 14st 1/2 lb; No 2 W T M Mason (Shrewsbury and Trinity Hall) 13st 6lb; No 3 S M Gore (Methodist College, Belfast, and Jesus) 15st 8lb; No 4 R C Phelps (Latymer Upper School and St Edmund's) 14st 3 1/2 lb; No 5 J A Bernstein (president) (Phillips Andover, Harvard, US; and St Edmund's) 15st; No 6 M H W Parish (Eton, University College, London, and St Edmund's) 14st 6lb; No 7 P J M Hoeltzenbein (Gaesdonk and Rats Gymnasium, Munster; Ruhr Universitat Bochum and Magdalene) 14st 2 1/2 lb; Stroke T Streppelhoff (Private Gymnasium St Ursula, Dorsten; Ruhr Universitat Bochum and St Edmund's) 14st 1lb; Cox M N Haycock (Abingdon School and Magdalene) 7st 12 1/2 lb.
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