Rowing / Boat Race: Oxford weigh up chances: Winter floods delay preparation for the 139th University Boat Race

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RUNNING true to the form of the past few years, the Oxford crew chosen to retain the Beefeater Trophy is older and heavier than Cambridge's. It is also an assembly of the most talented oarsmen, or at least, greatest achievers ever brought together for Saturday's University Race. However, all has not been well in Oxford, where the challenge has been to find the right blend to channel the power into speed not froth.

The lightest body and target of every flashgun at the official weigh-in was Samantha Benham, who was selected only on Saturday to steer the Oxford boat. At 7st 7lb she is 2 1/2 lb lighter than her Cambridge counterpart, Martin Haycock.

Her late arrival in the crew was a result of the process of trying to find the right mixture. As the crew developed it had moved away from Gordon Buxton, who has taken over Isis, the reserves. Although Benham is not a Tideway coxswain, she has proved that she is learning the course fast, and that her experience of sailing made her swiftly responsive to the way that wind works against the boat.

The crews have been decided unusually late, in part because of the loss of three weeks' river training after winter flooding. Much will depend on how well the two crews develop in the last few days of training. John Wilson, the Cambridge coach, is anxious not to place too much faith in the superior record of his crew in private fixtures.

'Cambridge rowing is like Ireland's rugby,' he said. 'They have a poor recent history in this fixture. But the finishing coach, Harry Mahon, has a wonderful knack and experience in bringing eights together to win the world championships and Olympics. It's not the luck of the Irish we need, but their aggression and decisiveness at the crunch moment.'

For the next five days the crews will gradually reduce the amount of work they do on the water and in the gym and their true sustainable speed will emerge from the fatigue that has accompanied them for the past six months. Oxford's line-up for the weigh in is the more impressive but Cambridge look the better prepared at this stage. As the week unfolds there will be less and less evidence to assess the crews, but the true differences will undoubtedly emerge.

Oxford University: Bow: K K Poole (Magdalen Coll Sch and St John's) 12st 13 1/2 lb, * J G Michels (St John's Coll HS, US, La Salle Univ and Pembroke) 12st 8 1/2 lb, * B Mavra (Matematicka Gimnazija, Belgrade, Imperial Coll and Jesus) 14st 1 1/2 lb, R H Manners (Winchester and Brasenose) 14st 13lb, B D Robertson (St Francis HS, Univ of Victoria, Canada, and Keble) 14st 12lb, * M C Pinsent (Eton and St Catherine's; President) 15st 2 1/2 lb, P A A Schuller (Phillips Academy, US, Graves Koster, Berlin, Harvard Univ and St Catherine's) 13st 8lb, Stroke: * I W Gardiner (Glasgow Academy and St Peter's) 12st 12 1/2 lb. Cox: S L Benham (St Mary's Sch, Calne and Brasenose) 7st 7lb. Average weight: 13st 12lb.

Cambridge University: Bow: * D E Bangert (Deutschhaus Gymnasium Wurzburg, Univ of Wurzburg, Fitzwilliam and St John's) 12st 9lb, * D R Gillard (Bedford Modern and St Catharine's) 13st 2 1/2 lb, * J H J Behrens (Radley, Reading Univ and Downing; President) 13st 10 1/2 lb, R C Phelps (Latymer Upper and St Edmund's) 14st 0lb, J A Bernstein (Phillips Andover, Harvard and St Edmund's) 14st 8 1/2 lb, M P Baker (St Albans Washinghton DC, Brown Univ US and St Edmunds) 14st 2 1/2 lb, S M Gore (Methodist Coll, Belfast and Jesus) 15st 1lb. Stroke: W T M Mason (Shrewsbury and Trinity Hall) 12st 9lb. Cox: M N Haycock (Abingdon and Magdalene) 7st 9 1/2 lb. Average weight: 13st 10 1/2 lb.

* denotes Blue

(Photograph omitted)

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