Oxford University Boat Club have confirmed a last-minute change to their crew a mere four days ahead of the biggest race of their year, the 164th annual boat race against historic rivals Cambridge.
The Dark Blues, who have won seven of the last ten races including last year’s victory by just over a length, have replaced Joshua Bugajski, a veteran of the race and a former under-23 international rower, due to illness.
He has been replaced by Christ Church engineering undergraduate Benedict Aldous who had been, up until this call up, rowing for reserve crew Isis. Albeit younger and less experienced, Aldous is no stranger to the event as he was a member of the winning Isis crew in the 2017 reserve races.
An alumnus of Eton College, Aldous has previously represented Great Britain, competing at the Munich International Junior Regatta and the Junior Rowing World Championships, where he won Bronze as part of the eight, in 2016.
While it is reported that Bugajski may now be back to full health, Oxford Chief Coach Sean Bowden, who himself represented Cambridge in the event in the ‘90s, chose to keep Aldous in the crew for the big day as the boat has reportedly been “performing well” over the last few days in training.
This may come as a surprise to many as, experience aside, Bugajski was Oxford’s heaviest rower in a crew that is already on average 4.2kg lighter than their Cambridge counterparts.
This change sees Aldous come into the six-seat, a pivotal position in the boat, and Anders Weiss, an international athlete who represented USA at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, move to the four-seat.
Aldous, who caused outcry amongst his peers in 2016 for attending a college Bop “satirically” dressed as a member of white supremacist group the Ku Klux Klan, an incident that made national news, will be hoping to hit the headlines for a different reason this weekend as he prepares to row in front of the estimated 250,000 people who will take to the River Thames to witness the latest instalment of this age-old rivalry.
Oxford will be looking to continue their recent success by defeating Cambridge, who currently lead their dark blue rivals 82-80 in all-time victories.