Transformed Oxford to weather storm

BOAT RACE: Oxford are tipped to end Cambridge's run, but strong winds could beat them both, says Hugh Matheson

Winds permitting, the 143rd Boat Race promises to be a great contest, with two of the best crews in the history of the event lining up. Cambridge has established a winning pattern after breaking the Dark Blue mould in 1993, and they remain favourites despite a considerable change of style and personnel at Oxford.

The Dark Blues practised in sinking conditions yesterday on the same tide that they will race on today. The north-westerly was blowing fiercely and pushed up white-topped waves that could have wrecked these slender shells in less than a minute. But Oxford survived and, more importantly, maintained an easy, fluent style. Cambridge delayed their session until the water had softened. There is no precedent to postpone the race. If it is spoiled it will be a chance lost to see how well young athletes can be taught in a compressed six-month programme.

James Ball is the stroke and key player for Cambridge as he sets the rhythm. He came back into the system late this year after the disappointment of not being elected President, but was a certain choice to lead the crew. The problem has been to find the right man to sit behind him. On Wednesday the crew lost to their reserves, and the next day they went through a series of reshuffles. That resulted in Alex Story, a 100kg British international who has come up as a freshman this year, being the rower to provide the link of rhythm with the rest of the Cambridge crew.

In the six seat is Alan Watson, a home-grown talent who won with the reserves, Goldie, last year. Behind him at five, and newly promoted from three, is Ethan Ayer, the President, who can once again lift his crew with his ability to deliver on the day.

Behind him, Canada's Olympic spare, Brad Crombie, is new to Cambridge. He is backed by Damien Maltarp, an Etonian of Danish descent who had never rowed before Cambridge. The bow pair have held their seats in the reshuffle, with Roger Pim, the quiet Ulsterman, at two and David Cassidy at bow - both promotions from Goldie last year - reflecting the strength of the Cambridge system.

The cox, Kevin Whyman, won last year but may have to steer a strange course to find the best water for his crew.

The Oxford boat is led by Tim Foster, the most relaxed, natural stroke in British rowing who is perfectly attuned to the coaching style and ambitions of Rene Mijnders, the chief coach responsible for the Dark Blues' transformation. Foster sits smiling in the stern, sending down a rhythm that is picked up by Jordan Irving, one of those rare rowers from Yale who has beaten Harvard in their Boat Race. At No 6, Luka Grubor is the first Croatian to row for Oxford. He forms a vital partnership with Roberto Blanda, a veteran of two Italian Olympic eights, at five.

The bow four has become more impressive as a unit by the day. Two 19- year-old freshmen, Andrew Lindsay and Nick Robinson, fill four and three, along with Charlie Humphreys, a second-year who, with James Roycroft at bow, rowed in the Isis last year. It is a tribute to Roycroft's athleticism and technical proficiency that at 6ft 6in (2.00m) he appears to fit the bow seat well even when the crew is racing at nearly 50 strokes to the minute off the start. Alex Greaney, the cox, has steered two losing Isis crews but is confident this crew can turn it round for him.

Despite both crews being given identical odds by the bookmakers, the developments of this week must favour Oxford. But as Mijnders said last night as he locked up the Boat House: "Lets hope the weather gets better. Otherwise we just row and see how far we get without sinking."

Zen and the Art of Rowing, page 22

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Sport
Rio Ferdinand returns for QPR
sportRio Ferdinand returns from his three-game suspension today
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
St Peter’s Seminary in Cardross. Argyll, has remained derelict for more than 25 years
arts + ents
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
Sport
Billy Twelvetrees will start for England against Australia tomorrow with Owen Farrell dropping to the bench
rugbyEngland need a victory against Australia today
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
Sport
Tyson Fury poses outside the Imperial War Museum in south London ahead of his fight against Dereck Chisora
boxingAll British heavyweight clash gets underway on Saturday night
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: QA Automation Engineer

£30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game