Rowing: Oxford's times not helped by the tide

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OXFORD GAVE away few clues for the 1999 Boat Race when the trial eights raced yesterday with almost no tide to carry them over the four- mile course on London's Tideway. Two crews, "Movers" and "Shakers", got away cleanly on near-perfect water at 46 and 47 strokes to the minute.

It was Henrik Nilsson, Sweden's first Blue a year ago and stroke of Shakers, who dropped into a rhythm most quickly, and while Nick Robinson, stroking Movers, kept up the rate it was Nilsson's crew who showed ahead by six feet at London Rowing Club and a length at the Black Buoy.

Movers, steered by Neil O'Donnell, a winning cox in the reserve Isis crew last year, cut the Fulham bend over the flats and Nilsson's crew, on the inside edge of the stream, crept back in spite of rating three strokes to the minute less than their increasingly rushed opponents. Shortly after the Mile Post both eights were level and although Robinson's crew were fighting the high rate of striking they never looked solid or strong enough to come back on terms.

Once both boats had veered round a wayward cruiser coming toward them at St Paul's, the race turned into a procession. Won by Nilsson in 18min 40sec, five lengths ahead, it offered no comparison with the Cambridge time of 17:11 on a much fuller tide last Monday.

Nilsson's advantage was having the greater power of Andrew Lindsay and Colin van Ettinghausen behind him, as well as a much improved sense of his own rhythm, developed by the coach, Sean Bowden, over the summer.

On this outing Oxford have greater strength throughout the squad but Cambridge have a very tough group at the top and will be well-equipped to defend their sequence of six victories.