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Cambridge coach Rob Baker relishing sense of normality ahead of Boat Race

Cambridge University boat club chief coach Rob Baker during a training session on the River Great Ouse (Joe Giddens/PA)
Cambridge University boat club chief coach Rob Baker during a training session on the River Great Ouse (Joe Giddens/PA)

Cambridge men’s coach Rob Baker is pleased to feel a sense of normality ahead of this year’s University Boat Race.

The historic event will return to its traditional River Thames home on Sunday for the first time since 2019.

Last year’s race took place at Ely’s River Great Ouse, the first time it had been moved away from the capital since the war, while the 2020 edition was cancelled due to the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

No spectators were allowed at the remote Fenland location last April but more than 250,000 spectators are set to line the banks of the River Thames for the 167th men’s and 76th women’s boat race between Cambridge and Oxford this weekend.

Baker said: “After the uncertainty and disruption of the past two Boat Race campaigns, this year feels more like a normal Boat Race program, which is good.

“Of course Covid has not gone away and it could still have a bearing on the race.

“We have had individual cases during the season and made sure that the infected team members were quick to isolate to prevent spreading it. Like the rest of the country, we are better able to live with it now.”

After six years in charge of the women’s team, Baker made the step to take over as chief coach of the men after the 2018 race and has overseen Cambridge’s last two victories either side of the 2020 cancellation.

Despite recent dominance, the defending champions will take nothing for granted on their return to the 4.2-mile championship course between Putney and Mortlake.

Cambridge have two British Olympic medallists in their eight in the form of Tom George and Ollie Wynne-Griffith, but weighed in 35.6 kilograms lighter than rivals Oxford, who have five British crew members in their boat.

It was double delight for the light blues on home water last year with victory for the women their fourth in a row while the men have triumphed in each of the last three Boat Races.

“I’m pleased to say we have two fast eights and the rowers have continued to fulfil their potential at every step,” Baker said in the Boat Race magazine for 2022.

“Even in the final days there are opportunities to improve.

“Regardless of how strong a given line up is you never feel like the job is done until the crews are beneath Chiswick Bridge and the race is over.

“Until then the challenges are constant and there are always opportunities to improve the boat speed. It is no different this year.

“The athletes, coaches and support staff have worked tirelessly to get Cambridge to the start line as well-prepared as possible. I look forward to seeing them race.”