David Nelson, the Australian who’s president of Cambridge University Boat Club, says the lack of British oarsmen in his squad for the annual Boat Race against Oxford University isn’t a disadvantage.
It’s the first time for Cambridge -- and only the second time in Boat Race history -- that a crew will have only one British rower. Undergraduate Mike Thorp is the lone Brit, although coxswain Ed Bosson grew up in Buckinghamshire, England.
Nelson, a former employee of RBS Morgans Ltd., will be sitting in the Cambridge bow during this weekend’s race on the River Thames. The international makeup of his crew -- which includes three Americans, two Australians, a German and a New Zealander along with Thorp -- is an asset, the 28-year-old said.
“Having different nationalities in the crew is an advantage,” said Nelson, who is studying economics at Hughes Hall. “We have a lot of experience and we can draw on that. The Boat Race is demanding and it’s good to have that strength and experience to draw on. Whatever is thrown at us, we can deal with it.”
The Oxford crew consists of four Britons, two Americans, and individuals from Germany and the Netherlands. Cox Zoe de Toledo is also British.
The 158th edition of the Boat Race, sponsored by Xchanging Plc, will be held April 7. The contest started in 1829 after a Cambridge student wrote to a friend at Oxford proposing a race.
The event takes place over a 4.25-mile (6.8-kilometer) course on the Thames in west London and lasts about 20 minutes.
‘Not an Issue’
The only other time a team had just one British rower was in 2007 when Robin Ejsmond-Frey was in the Oxford boat. Cambridge won that race.
“It’s not an issue for us,” said Moritz Schramm, a 25-year-old German at Cambridge who’s lived in the U.K. for almost 10 years. “Lots of us think of ourselves as almost British, although Mike does like to point out that he’s the only Brit in the crew.”
Oxford won by four boat lengths last year after leading from the start. Cambridge holds a 80-76 advantage, with one tie.
Cambridge is the heavier crew this year, with its oarsmen averaging 96.3 kilos (212 pounds) each, compared to 88.4 kilos for Oxford. The 7.9-kilo weight difference is the second-biggest ever, with only the victorious Oxford boat of 1990 having a larger margin. The heavier crew has won 7 of the last 10 races.
Oxford is the favorite with U.K. bookmaker Coral Racing Ltd., which is offering 2-5 odds on the Blues. That means a successful $5 bet would return the original stake plus $2. Cambridge is 7-4 and a dead-heat is 100-1.
Both teams feature oarsmen with experience at world championship levels, either from junior or under-23 competitions.
Kevin Baum, a 27-year-old who rowed at Stanford University in California, is in the three seat in the Oxford eight. He said the publicity around the race is something he never experienced rowing in America.
“It’s completely different from anything that I’ve ever done in the U.S., where no one comes to watch races unless it’s coaches and family,” Baum said. “To be at a university where rowing is the big sport has been a completely shocking, foreign experience.”