THE BOAT RACE: The crews have been announced and Cambridge are the ones packing the extra weight, will it prove crucial come race day?
As The 158th Boat Race draws ever closer, the Oxbridge rowing community is awash with speculation and predictions over the outcome of arguably the most famous Varsity sporting event of the year.
The official announcement of the crews, of course, is preceded by speculation based on photos from practice outings and fixtures, but the actual announcement and the weigh-in not only provides certainty as to the final lineup of the Blue Boats but also new information.
Here, then, is the official lineup for the 2012 Blue Boat:
Bow: Moritz Schramm (Fitzwilliam) – 91.8kg
2: Jack Lindeman (Hughes Hall) – 94.6kg
3: Mike Thorp (Homerton) – 91.8kg
4: David Nelson (President; Hughes Hall) – 92.8kg
5: Alexander Scharp (St. Edmunds) – 95.6kg
6: Steve Dudek (St. Edmunds) – 109.6kg
7: Alex Ross (Caius) – 102kg
Stroke: Niles Garratt (Hughes Hall) – 92.2kg
Cox: Ed Bosson (Pembroke) – 55.6kg
The Cambridge boat lining up in front of the Olympic Stadium today
There are several returners in the lineup – Schramm rowed in the victorious Goldie ’10 but did not trial last year while Thorp, racing in that same crew as a fresher, made the bow seat of the 2011 Blue Boat. Nelson stroked last year’s losing crew, while Ross rowed in Goldie ’11 and was a spare in 2010. Last year’s 2 seat, Joel Jennings, trialled at the start of the year and has been named as part of the squad but does not appear in this year’s crew list.
Bosson and Lindeman (as well as Nelson) have competed at junior World Championships, while Garratt has represented the USA at U23 level. From the perspective of Cambridge College rowing, though, it is nice to see two oarsmen in the Blue Boat who learned to row at their respective Colleges (Schramm and Ross). The crew is also very international, with Bosson and Thorp the only two Brits.
The simplest predictions, and the ones the media seem to favour over more in-depth ones based on race results and actual observations, are those based purely on the respective crews’ weights. This year, Cambridge are a total of 62kg heavier (excluding coxes) than the Oxford crew, weighing in at an average of 96.3 kg.
6 ft 8 in Dudek, the heaviest athlete in the race, narrowly misses out on becoming the heaviest ever oarsman to compete (Thorsten Engelmann, CUBC 2007 – 110.8 kg), with Ross the only other man weighing in at over 100 kg. The dark Blue Boat weigh 88.4 kg on average, which reflects the three former lightweights in this crew – Harvey and Woods are both alumni of OULRC while Zeng rowed with the Yale lightweights.
The traditional view is that a heavier crew confers an advantage, but this is based on the assumption that body fat, technique, crew cohesion and countless other factors are the same. In the case of a headwind on race day, however, it can be argued that the heavier crew will gain something of an advantage as it will be less affected by it.
In particular, the Cambridge bow pair are 26kg heavier overall than their Oxford counterparts so that the bow of the boat sits deeper in the water. This produces more drag but, in the choppy water which is the norm on the tideway, may mean that the boat will sit more calmly. Overall, crew weights aren’t the most reliable indicators – but then again, nearly 8kg per man is a big difference (the second biggest ever).
So far, both crews have completed a number of fixtures which, at first sight, would name Oxford the favourites for this year’s race. CUBC were beaten by a crew from the University of London in an unofficial fixture while OUBC beat a German under-23s eight.
However, it must be noted that CUBC, in particular, have been troubled with injuries and it remains to be seen how the full crew performs in its next official fixture against Leander Club this weekend. As such, it is early days for serious prediction-making, especially with the two clubs not having competed directly since Fours Head.
Goldie have not officially been announced, but some inferences can be made by comparing the squad list to the Blue Boat lineup.
Coxed by Sarah Smart from Downing, the squad has good strength in depth with two Goldie colours from last year joined by some strong ex-schoolboy oarsmen (including a Henley winner). There is certainly scope for Light Blue optimism as the two clubs enter the final phase of their preparations for the big day on April 7.