Assuming the crews are able to make it past the semi-final, Cambridge and Oxford University's mens' eights will take to the Thames on Saturday at 4:30pm for just under 20 minutes' worth of water borne endeavour that will be watched by between 15 and 100 million television viewers around the world (depending on whose figures you believe) as well as some 250,000 spectators thronging the riverside vantage points. Oxford are the defending champions and have been beaten only once in the last five meetings, though favourites Cambridge lead the overall series 78-73 and this year feature the event's heaviest ever competitor, Thorsten Engelmann, the 110.8kg (17st 6lb 4 oz) German stroke (the one who sits just in front of the cox and sets the tempo for the rest of the crew).
There is a feeling that the race can be more of a procession, with the lead rarely changing hands after the halfway mark, yet in 2003 the lead was swapped three times before Oxford finally clung on to victory by the smallest ever margin of one foot and the year before that the Dark Blues capitalised on the collapse of an exhausted Cambridge oarsman to surge around the outside of the final bend at Chiswick and claim the win.
In case the widespread sinkings that caused last week's Men's Head of the River to be abandoned is encouraging you to take a gamble on the 33/1 odds of one of the crews turning turtle you should be aware that the weather forecasters are predicting a bright, sunny Saturday afternoon with virtually no wind and also that, unlike "straight-course" crews practicing for lakes, these two prepare specifically for this race alone which includes planning for the local streams and currents as well as fitting devices like on-board pumps to clear away any threat of a swamping. It's no surprise that the Cambridge crew, eager to meet criticism about the standard of the Boat Race head on, ploughed serenely through the Head of the River mayhem to win the attenuated competition.
If you want to go and see the race for yourself, getting to your chosen vantage point as early as possible cannot be over emphasised. Londonist recommends the big screen erected by the local council as part of the Hammersmith and Fulham festival in Furnival Gardens as providing a comfortable way to join in the festivities, with an alternative set up in Bishops Park. Hammersmith Bridge, the only road bridge across the course, is an excellent free viewing station and you get a long look at the event's entourage both before and after it reaches you. If you're thinking of settling back with a serene pint be aware that there are exactly fourteen hostelries and eating houses, such as The Ship (pictured above), with a good view of the course and they are all well-known and documented across popular sites such as the BBC, Fluid Foundation and the main race site itself. If you get in quickly you could also secure a £10 seat at Fulham FC's football ground, Craven Cottage, often mentioned in the race commentary. The price includes a beer and a Cottage Pie (or hot dog). And if you should see any BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards dumped by the riverside, please return them to the angry, tall man who is looking for them.
Picture via tompagenet's Flickr stream.