Rowing: Home-grown Light Blues leave Innocence behind

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Cambridge University happily endorsed the permissive society in allowing "Guilt" to overcome "Innocence" in yesterday's doughty eights trial for the crew to take on Oxford in the Boat Race.

Better times than ever before were recorded all the way down the course, although nothing can stand as an official record because the crews were moving and were a length beyond the mark when they started.

Guilt was stroked, on bow side by Roger Pim, who may well hold on to that position when the Blue Boat for the 29 March meeting with Oxford is formed in the new year. But much of his success came from the able backing of Christian Brun in the No 7 seat. These two won the reserves race last year along with Alan Watson, who was at No 6. One newcomer, at five, was Alex Storey, a 24-year-old freshman from the British Olympic eight in Atlanta.

Innocence was older and more foreign than Guilt. It was led by a Canadian, Brad Crombie, with a Dane, Damien Maltarp, at seven and the American president, Ethan Ayer, at No 5, but between those imports at six was the find of the year, Toby Wallace. He is a 22-year-old hockey player who has learned to row at Cambridge. Although he was in the losing crew, his form held well throughout and, after this display, he will move up the bow-side rankings.

The winning crew did look the more cohesive, but the most significant difference was in the coxing of the British international Suzie Ellis, who was the inspiration for Guilt in word as well as deed, and of Kevin Whyman, who, in spite of his winning his Blue last year, was treated as the innocent abroad on the Tideway. Ellis forced a clash in the second minute and was warned through the remainder of the race.

She spent the entire course boring Whyman off the stream and at places, especially along Chiswick Eyot, put herself off the best of the water to prevent him getting a sniff of it.

The river could hardly have given more help to produce the fast time, with a high tide running in fast and what little breeze there was pushing them along, but there is clearly plenty of talent for the first boat.

Oxford is also on a highthrough the coaching of Rene Mijnders, the Dutchman who took his national eight to Olympic gold. Oxford had the edge in such comparisons as were possible at the Four's Head and in the indoor championships, competed on rowing machines. But on this evidence the Light Blues will have a fast and efficient crew for the race.