The independent voice of rowing in Britain

Cambridge weigh in heavier but still face ‘big task’

Posted by rowingvoice on March 5, 2012

Oxford's crew at the Boat Race weight-in

The Olympic Park watched over proceedings at the crew announcement and weigh-in for the 2012 Xchanging Boat Race – held at a function venue at Forman’s Fish Island – and Olympic champion Mark Hunter, keeping an eye on Twitter as the crews took to the scales, was one of the first to dive into the debate over whether Cambridge’s extra weight will help them overturn Oxford this year.

“You have to be good enough technically to put that weight and power on the end of the blade!” said Hunter, who at race weight is more than 5kg lighter than the lightest man who will be on display on 7 April, Oxford’s 77.8kg bowman Alex Woods.

In Olympic year, neither squad ever has the same depth of talent to call on but dark blue coach Sean Bowden appeared unworried by the fact his men are on average 7.85kg (1st3lb) lighter.

After including three former lightweights in his crew – Woods and seven man Dan Harvey are veterans of the lightweight Boat Race and William Zeng raced at lightweight for Yale – he clearly agrees with Hunter’s belief that a good light ‘un can easily beat a heavier rival.

In German Han Wienhausen and Dutch stroke Roel Haen there is senior international experience and Bowden believes president Karl Hudspith and six man Alex Davidson – at 21 the youngest oarsman in the race – could follow them.

“I think this group’s got a good mix,” he said after training recently.

“There are a couple of experienced guys in there; there’s a couple – Karl and Alex – who perhaps with another year or so wouldn’t be a million miles away from knocking on the door of the [GB] team.

“There are a couple of good lightweights in the boat, who maybe wouldn’t be that far from the standard of a lightweight [national] team.”

Both squads have been hit by injuries and illness in the last few months but Bowden had seven of his first-choice line-up available for their two victories over Germany’s Under-23s on 26 February, while Cambridge had only half their blue boat for three defeats to the University of London in mid-February.

The light blues have some hulks, like Kiwi seven man Alex Ross and Wisconsonian six Steve Dudek, who tipped the scales at 109.6kg. I had hoped to use a line about his beard not being enough to help him match the record for the heaviest ever but presenter Andrew Cotter beat me to the mark, and to the fact the heaviest remains Cambridge’s Thorsten Engelmann at 110.8kg in 2007.

Bowden, who clearly enjoys the politics of these situations, said of the weight difference: “You have to carry yourself in rowing, you’ve got to do that for the whole distance and it becomes a challenge if somebody else has to carry a bit of your weight.”

Meanwhile another Olympic champion, Cambridge coach Steve Trapmore, was disarmingly honest about the challenge facing his men in a month’s time.

He admitted that the whole Cambridge squad of 18 is close in terms of results and it would be difficult to rule out a tweak or two to the published line-up over the next five weeks and he mentioned being beaten “convincingly” at November’s Fours Head, which appears a harsh assessment as the results show that, while Oxford had the fastest coxed four, Cambridge had greater depth.

“I think we’ve got a long journey ahead of us,” Trapmore admitted.

“The guys have shown some good stuff but the Oxford guys have put the first marker down racing the Germans.

“We’re trying to row to particular performance markers in trainingand the better we do that the more chance we have.

“But what we’re very realistic about is that Sean’s a great coach, he’s got a great squad; they beat us pretty convincingly at the Fours Head so we know we’ve got a pretty big task on our hands.”

By Martin Gough


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