OXFORD University will have to overcome the odds when they line up in this weekend’s 2018 Cancer Research Boat Race.

Cambridge are firm favourites to win both the men’s and ladies’ events over the six-and-a-quarter mile course from Putney to Mortlake on London’s Thames Tideway.

But the Dark Blues will line up full of belief for Saturday’s 164th clash.

After victory last year, Oxford’s men have won four of the last five races and trail just 82-80 in the overall standings.

Despite being both shorter and lighter than their arch rivals, the Dark Blues start with the confidence born of previous victories for the Abingdon strokeman Vassilis Ragoussis and president Iain Mandale, a three-time winner in the reserve boat when an undergraduate.

But they will have to manage without the three-time Blue Josh Bugasjski, whose illness this week is not going to abate in time for the race.

He is replaced by world junior bronze medalist Benedict Aldous, who steps up from the reserve crew to row in the crucial six seat.

Their preparation has not been smooth, however.

Despite a number of wins, including over old foes University of London, they lost to Oxford Brookes.

But with that crew going on to beat Cambridge, head coach Sean Bowden is sure to have used this reverse to great effect.

Oxford’s women, beaten last year after making a terrible start, will have to fend off far more experienced rivals if they are to eat into Cambridge’s 42-30 overall lead.

The Dark Blues struggled with numbers at the turn of the year, but new head coach Andy Nelder has shaped a squad full of promise.

It contains one Blue, Cheney School’s Alice Roberts, in a boat that he describes as ‘determined and hard-working’.

The women’s race gets under way at 4.31pm, with the men’s event starting at 5.32pm.

Oxford’s boats will be bidding to improve on the results from last weekend’s lightweight boat races, which saw victories for both Cambridge crews.

With the river levels too high for the traditional Henley course, the event was relocated to Eton’s Dorney Lake where the lane draw might have played too strong a part.

In both races, Cambridge bagged the slightly sheltered lane one.

After close encounters over the full 2,000m, the Light Blues boats crossed the line around half a length ahead in each clash.

Cambridge won by a length in the men’s reserve race, but Oxford did pick up one victory, with success for their reserve women’s crew.


Men: Iain Mandale (president), Felix Drinkall, Will Cahill, Anders Weiss, Will Geffen, Benedict Aldous, Claas Mertens, Vassilis Ragoussis (stroke), Zachary Thomas Johnson (cox).

Women: Renee Koolschijn, Katherine Erickson (president), Juliette Perry, Alice Roberts, Sara Kushma, Abigail Killen, Beth Bridgman (stroke), Jessica Buck (cox).