Tim Wooge, the first German president of Cambridge University Boat Club, issued the traditional challenge to last year's winners, Oxford, yesterday for the 149th Boat Race on 6 April.
Matt Smith, stroke of last year's winners of an epic race and going for his fourth blue, duly accepted. The scene is set for two crews with an international profile but lacking in superstars to try and better the spectacle of Oxford winning by three-quarters of a length round the outside of the last bend.
Unusually this year's race is late on a Sunday afternoon, the result of an equation involving the tide and the previous day's Grand National which is also televised by the BBC. The fact that the clubs named not just their crews but their seating order 27 days before the race signifies a confidence which has not always revealed itself at this stage in recent years.
Sean Bowden, Oxford's coach, said he had only been able to coach from his launch on home water at Wallingford for six days between November and mid-January, because of flooding on the Thames. "This affects us emotionally," he said, "but not practically. We miss out on individual attention, but, also, we have figured out how to make training on a 2000 metre course work to our benefit."
Cambridge have missed only one day at Ely, and have also been training in Banyolas, Spain, and on Windermere. Their coach, Robin Williams, says that he has "no real superstars, nobody carrying medals. This year we all have the same goals and motivations." Smith has an Australian and a Canadian among his crew, plus two blues from last year.
Wooge, winner of both his previous boat races, has an eclectic line-up which includes three from the Harvard crew who won the Ladies' Plate at Henley last year, a Canadian, an Australian, a German lightweight international, and James Livingston, a Blue from last year whose brother Dave is picked for Oxford. The only other time that brothers rowed against each other was in 1901 when Cambridge's Raymond 'Ethel' Etherington-Smith's Cambridge crew beat his brother Thomas and Oxford by a record 20 lengths. Such an outcome is most unlikely this time. Cambridge have no intention of letting the Aberdeen Asset Management Trophy slip from their grasp again.
BOAT RACE CREWS
Oxford: J Adams (age 20, University College), B Dixon (21, Pembroke), S McLennan (23, Corpus Christi), D Livingston (19, Christ Church), R Bourne-Taylor (21, Christ Church), S Frandsen (22, St Edmund Hall), H Morris (20, Magdalen); M Smith (21, St Anne's, president), A Nethercott (25, University, cox).
Cambridge: W Pommen (23, Pembroke), C Coventry (25, Queens' College), H Mallinson (23, St Catherine's), M Kleinz (26, Gonville and Caius), A McGarel-Groves (22, Peterhouse), T James (18, Trinity Hall), J Livingston (22, St Catherine's); T Wooge (30, Peterhouse, president), J O'Martian (23, St Catherine's, cox).
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