The Boat Race: The Preview

With the big day fast approaching, The Tab are here to prepare you for the race.

Australian Boris Johnson Cambridge Ladbrokes thames The Boat Race

READ The Tab‘s pick of where to watch the race along the river.

Currently standing at 80-75 in Cambridge’s favour, the Boat Race is unlike any other. Lasting for about 17 mins, over a distance of 4 miles and 374 yards, it is both a physical and mental battle. Starting at 17:00 this Saturday it is Cambridge who go in as favourites.

Tab columnist Hardy Cubasch getting ready

In the 157th Boat Race, Ladbrokes are giving Cambridge odds of 8/13 to win, while Oxford are pitched at 6/5. With a win in the spare’s race today, however, the scales are perhaps tipping back in Oxford’s favour.

It is this unpredictable nature of the Boat Race that makes it such an appealing event and justifies the presence of the 250,000 or so spectators who line the bank of the Thames each year. Indeed, Boris Johnson praised it as a “world-class sporting event that is huge for London”.

With three of last year’s victorious blue boat, and a further three members of the successful 2010 Goldie crew on board, Cambridge have the upper hand in terms of experience, as only one member of the Oxford boat has rowed the race before. They also have a slight weight advantage (an average of 1.63kg per person). Finally, it’s a more international crew, boasting four Brits, three Australians, and rowers from the USA and Canada. Oxford, on the other hand, have only one non-Brit in their number, in the most British crew of recent years.

Cambridge celebrate 2010 success

Oxford are intent on avenging last year’s defeat. However, Cambridge, under the watchful eye of new coach Steve Trapmore (a Sydney Olympics gold medallist) know pre-race experience does not always lead to a winning result, as the Dark Blues discovered last year.

Indeed, it is the ability of a crew to work together as one unit that makes a boat go fast, not necessarily the experience of those within the crew. Derek Rasmussen, CUBC President, was keen to point out that he thinks having the experience is more “of a liability than anything else”, suggesting that it is easier just to “approach it as a clean slate ‘let’s go out and race’”.

While Cambridge may have the advantage on the scales and in experience, Oxford are certainly not short of talent. Their six-seat, nineteen year old Constantine Louloudis, has recently been described by four-time Olympic gold medallist, Matthew Pinsent, as a “bit of a beast”. Tipped as an Olympic hopeful, he recently beat Cambridge’s own George Nash in GB trials. Only finishing his A-Levels last June, he might not have the experience, but he certainly has the calibre.

Following recent ‘sparring’ with various clubs from across the country, both crews have been trying to get as much experience of the course as possible, and have spent the last two weeks training on the tideway, adding to the numerous visits they have made over the past six months to this fateful stretch of water.

It takes about 600 strokes to complete the course, which means that every member of the squad has trained for two hours for each stroke of the race.

Whether Cambridge’s experience and weight advantage will translate to race success is a question only Saturday evening’s result will tell. Both crews will have to produce their best performance to stand any chance of crossing the line first, as no amount of pre-race hype will ever be enough to create that coveted win.

BBC coverage starts at 15:45 on Saturday 26th March, with the race itself beginning at 17:00. The Goldie race, meanwhile, begins half an hour earlier.