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Page last updated at 11:53 GMT, Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Students get tough on the Thames

Oxford's trial eights race under Hammersmith Bridge

The University Boat Race season begins in earnest in December when defending champions Oxford and this season's favourites Cambridge both take to the Thames for trial races over the 4.25-mile course

Colin Smith (second left) with his trial crew Bull

Oxford's squad has five Olympians but only Colin Smith – GB silver-medallist in Beijing - has done the Boat Race before and says: “We’re coming from a long way back [on Cambridge] in building a team”

George Bridgewater and his trial crew Bear

New Zealander George Bridgewater, who won bronze in Beijing, tells BBC Sport: “Training is slightly less than for a national squad but people aren’t full-time athletes – we’ve all got to rush off to class."

Bear pull ahead to win

Bridgewater’s crew, called Bear, lose their early lead when one of their crew loses his blade but American cox Adam Barhamand steers aggressively and they win by a length and a half in 18 mins 35 secs

Coach Sean Bowden speaks to Smith's defeat crew

Coach Sean Bowden says: “There isn’t a lot of Boat Race experience but these guys are experienced at racing” but Smith, in defeated crew Bull, says: “We don’t know whether that’s good enough”

Coach Chris Nilsson arrives in time to see Cambridge's trial races

Cambridge's new coach, New Zealander Chris Nilsson, receives his UK visa after a six-week wait, just in time to see the Light Blue trial – between boats named Looks and Personality

Tom Ransley (centre) races in Looks

Tom Ransley, in Looks, has been part of Great Britain’s Under-23 squad and he says: “London 2012 is the aim. International racing is 2,000m multi-lane: here it’s one-on-one over a unique course”

Shane O'Mara (centre) races with Personality

American Shane O'Mara pulled out of the 2008 race at the last minute with a heart problem; he races in Personality and says: "It's seemed like one massive, two-year endeavour to reach one Boat Race"

Cambridge's two trial crews clash at Hammersmith

Looks are faster but the crews clash halfway through their race and O'Mara explains: "I just held on to my blade as tight as I could; my blade struck his blade pretty hard and his popped out"

Umpire Boris Rankov watches the race from a motor launch

Umpire Boris Rankov disqualifies Looks, something that last happened in the Boat Race proper in 1849, but would Rankov dare do the same in front of a crowd of 100,000? "If exactly that thing happened, yes"

Oxford squad members dismantle a boat

Oxford and Cambridge both have training camps in Europe in January and will be back on the Thames for a fortnight of preparation leading up to the 155th Boat Race on 29 March



see also
Cambridge crews come to blows
17 Dec 08 |  Other sport...
GB stars back in action on Thames
09 Nov 08 |  Olympics
ITV drops Boat Race for football
09 Dec 08 |  Entertainment


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