Cambridge too good to ignore in Boat Race

On Sunday, one of the great annual British sporting occasions takes place as the Light Blues of Cambridge take on the Dark Blues of Oxford in the 165th Boat Race.

Two of the most famous educational institutions in the world, their sporting rivalry is just as intense. Cambridge are the reigning champions after winning by three lengths 12 months ago, claiming their 83rd win and only their second in six years.

After seven months of gruelling training, the two crews will come under Putney Bridge at around 3:15pm and make their way along the Thames towards Mortlake’s Chiswick Bridge. Much could depend on the toss which will decide who takes the inside, and shorter, route to the finish.

Conditions are set to be fine, with just a slight breeze and little rain so hopefully, we won’t have a fifth-ever sinking – the last of which came in 1978.

Cracknell to inspire Cambridge

Despite their recent difficulties, it is the Light Blues who are the huge favourites at 1.30. One reason for that is the fact they have James Cracknell, described by Cambridge president Dara Alizadeh as a “tremendous presence”, amongst their number.

Now 46, and set to become the oldest ever participant, his personal life may have been all over the papers in recent weeks but he remains as fit as ever and retains the will to win that inspired him to Olympic gold as part of Great Britain’s coxless fours in both 2000 and 2004.

More than twice the age of some of his colleagues, Cracknell has described the boat race as a “unique”. Don’t think his pedigree means he will be taking it lightly either, admitting he is excited to be back at the business end of a race and his old pal Steve Redgrave has even suggested the course record of 16 minutes 19 seconds could go with him in the boat.

The Light Blues also have Natan Wegrzycki-Szymczyk at their disposal. The Pole is another former Olympian, competing in the single sculls at Rio 2016.

Spirit significant for Oxford

Oxford are the 3.50 underdogs to get their own back and have produced some gutsy performances in the build-up.

The Dark Blues have Felix Drinkall, a veteran of last year’s defeat, leading their charge. Described as a man with “fierce determination” he will not have forgotten about last year and his cool head will be vital having helped his crew beat Leander in their final warm-up.

Former captain of Princeton Augustin Wambersie will be Wegrzycki-Szymczyk’s opposite number and the Belgian and will be relied upon to set a strong tempo from the off. As the stroke, it is Wambersie’s responsibility to get his team moving from the stern but while he may possess determination, whether the rest of his crew can match his ferocity will be seen on Sunday.

Unlikely dead heat has value…but little chance

Some punters may like something different and for that there is an obvious choice. There has only ever been one dead heat in the history of the Boat Race.

That came back in 1877 and is available at 81.00 but obviously looks unlikely.

Cambridge’s advantage with the bookies is not to be discounted and while much could change after the draw, they are man-for-man a stronger crew and will expect to make it win number 84 on Sunday.