There was precious little of rowing substance for the assembled media and when Tim Foster, the Olympic bronze medallist who is now stroking Oxford, was asked by a peroxide presenter to "show us a bit of bicep" he was able only to flash his fillings in gaping astonishment.
After the hype is stripped away there is little of value in the raw data. Cambridge have slightly the heavier crew but there is less than half a kilo difference in the 90kg (14st 2lb) average. Most of the difference comes from the presence of 100kg (16st) Alex Story at No 5 for Cambridge.
Cambridge are also fractionally the taller group at 1.965m (6ft 51/4 in).Over the past century the heavier crew has tended to win but it has made no difference in the 1990s when they are all tall, slim and blessed with the muscle definition which comes from body fat counts below 10 per cent.
What is new can be seen when the crews are on the water. Eight years ago Cambridge began to develop an easier, more flowing stroke to help them lift their combined three-quarters of a ton, plus the boat, over the 41/2 miles course. Oxford persisted with a more heroic, effortful style with a harder smash at the start of the stroke; and in 1993, began to lose after a decade of domination.
Now Oxford have leapfrogged the Light Blues in smooth elasticity and through the influence of their Dutch coach, Rene Mijnders, have at last captured this elusive light-fingered continuous cycle with the blade which has more effect for less visible effort.
The Light Blues are fortunate to have James Ball back in the stroke seat. The 22-year-old theologian had retired after winning last year and was not available until afyer Trial VIIIs in December.
Behind him, in the seven seat, is Damien Maltarp, a Dane who went to Eton as a sixth form scholar after Grammar school in Kent. He learned to row at Cambridge but shows no surprise at his senior position in the boat. At No 6 is Alan Watson, who has been promoted from last year's reserve crew, Goldie.
In the five seat is the heaviest man in the race, Storey, a freshman at 22, who has come in from the British Olympic eight where he was coached by Sean Bowden, one of the architects of the Cambridge style.
He is backed by another international, Brad Crombie, who was a spare for Canada in Atlanta. The president, Ethan Ayer, the tallest man ever at 2.02m (6ft 83/4in), is back at three with two Goldie winners, Roger Pim and David Cassidy, as bow pair. The cox, Kevin Whyman, has been given a huge vote of confidence in holding on to the blue he won last year against the challenge of Suzie Ellis from the British women's Olympic eight.
Oxford have a quartet of young Brits, Charlie Humphreys and Nick Robinson from Hampton School, and James Roycroft and Andrew Lindsay from Eton. The middle three, Roberto Blanda from Italy, Luka Grubor from Croatia and an American Jordan Irving, are led by Tim Foster a world class stroke.
Crews and weights for the 143rd University Boat Race
J B Roycroft (Keble) 13st 7lb, C P A Humphreys (Oriel) 12st 8lb, N J Robinson (Lincoln) 13st 9lb, A J R Lindsay (Brasenose) 14st 2lb, R Blanda (Brasenose) 15st 6lb, L Grubor (Somerville) 15st 9lb, J Irving (Keble) 13st 10lb, T J C Foster (St Cross) 13st 11lb, cox: P A Greaney (St Edmund Hall) 8st 7lb.
Average: 14st 1.125lb
D J Cassidy (Trinity Hall) 13st 8lb, R J Pim (Downing) 13st 5lb, E D Ayer (St Edmunds) 15st 6lb, B Crombie (Peterhouse) 14st 10lb, A Story (St Edmunds) 16st, A R Watson (Sydney Sussex) 13st 6lb, D P S Maltarp (Trinity Hall) 13st 4lb, J Ball (Robinson) 13st 2lb, cox: K Whyman (Peterhouse) 7st 13lb.
Average: 14st 2.125lbReuse content