Oxford University Boat Club’s surprising last-minute decision to replace Boat Race veteran Joshua Bugajski with Benedict Aldous was in part down to disagreements in the Dark Blue camp it transpires.
Bugajski, who has been suffering from an illness which disrupted both his and the crew’s preparations, would have been expected to reclaim his seat in the boat. The 27-year-old, who is rumoured to have achieved a world-class time on the ergometer earlier this week while training at the national team’s headquarters, was Oxford’s heaviest rower in a boat that was already a significant 4.2kg lighter per person, on average, than their Cambridge counterparts.
This would have been a third appearance at the annual event for Bugajski, who was part of Oxford’s winning crew last year.
However, he has failed to win back his place following his recovery seemingly on account of differences within the crew and coaching staff.
Sean Bowden, Oxford’s chief coach, spoke out on the decision and acknowledged that Bugakski had “quite a strong character” which had led to disagreements in the camp. “We had a number of issues this year with the boat not functioning as well as we’d like it to,” Bowden went on to state, and he commented that with the arrival of Aldous the boat had “had a good restart, [and] made good progress”.
Aldous had, prior to this late call-up, been rowing with the reserve crew, Isis, with whom he claimed victory in their race against Cambridge reserve crew Goldie at the same event last year.
Cambridge were already strong favourites going into the race, priced at 2/5 to win with the bookies, and it is believed that this late replacement could sway those odds further still away from Oxford.
Bowden is, however, still hopeful that his crew can claim victory in front of the expected 250,000-strong crowd that will line the Thames’ banks on Saturday, closing with the words “It’s not the hand you’ve got but how well you play”.