In British University sport there is nothing comparable to the boat race. World class athletes putting in 1,200 hours of training, a crowd that could fill Wembley twice over, and a dangerous quantity of Pimms.
Without it the Oxbridge rivalry would look tame; no other sport has managed to keep the quality of their Varsity match at such performance levels, no other Varsity match is still watched by those who haven’t kept their old college scarf.
We could complain that the most of the rowers aren’t ‘proper students’, and that the University spends too much money on it, but we would forget that the boat race helps to define our image. It is one of the things that makes Oxford recognised, that makes it different to and more interesting than other universities.
To lose our prestigious boat race would be similar to losing the Rad Cam or sub-fusc. Anyway enough theory, theory doesn’t win the boat race (although the coxes spend much time scientifically analysing the flow of the Thames in order to find the quickest route), on to the practicalities.
The race will be held on the 29th March at 17.15 between Putney and Chiswick on a 4 1/4 mile long course. Last year Oxford lost a gripping race, leading at the start but hauled in on the big Surrey bend at Hammersmith that favoured Cambridge (as they choose to row on that side), and went on to lose by a boat length.
Despite this Oxford have dominated the race in recent times, winning 4 of the last 6 encounters, irrespective of whether they entered a heavy crew (usually seen as an advantage up to a certain weight) as in 2005 or a light one as in 2003. Training this year has been typically intense, including a training camp in Spain and a promising trial eights despite the fact that many of the squad were recovering from illness.
On the 5th March the Blues VIII and the Isis VIII (the reserve boat that competes against Cambridge’s Goldie) will be announced, but for those selected there will no opportunity for celebration until they pass Chiswick bridge on the 29th March. Get to London or, failing that, re-create the atmosphere at home will help from ITV and enjoy the fact that, despite not dedicating a year of your life to it, you are a part of this wonderful sporting tradition.by Jeremy Kelly