Cambridge University crew members Thorsten Engelmann and Sebastian Schulte getting ready for the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race 2007                              The Oxford stroke, Ante Kusurin of Croatia, is a former world junior gold medallist in the double, while their number three oarsman, Michal Plotkoviak, who represented Poland at world junior and under 23 level, is the first athlete from Poland to take part in the race.

But it's the Germans who form the stern pair of the Cambridge boat where so much interest has focussed. Sebastian Schulte and Thorsten Engelmann are both world-class sweep oarsman from the German national squad.

Engelmann is a current World Champion after taking part in the German gold medal eight last year at the Eton World Rowing Championships and after weighing-in for this year's event at 110.8 kg he becomes the heaviest man ever to compete in the 178 year history of the race.

The strength of the German pair is just one reason why Cambridge are favourites to win the 153rd Boat Race, in which each athlete is just 4.3kg heavier than their opposite number. Cambridge are hoping that they can repeat the win last time they had two Germans as the stern pair.

“It's good to be favourites, to be stronger and more powerful, but it doesn't help on the day,” said Engelmann. “Then you have to concentrate on the rowing. I need the stress and the adrenaline to perform well. I don't like pressure but when I get it I react well.”

Both Schulte and Engelmann rowed in last year's Boat Race when their chances of success were scuppered in rough conditions after Cambridge took on water into the second half of the course. Oxford had taken the precaution of fitting pumps to their boat, which gave them the edge, and Cambridge won't be making the same mistake again.

“The weather was a big issue last year, but we're more of a team this year, and that is going to help,” said Engelmann.

Both crews raced fixtures against top-rated club crews in the run-up to this year's event. Oxford lost by more than three lengths to Leander Club but it was when Cambridge lost to Molesey Club that they made a late switch and brought Rebecca Dowbiggin into the coxswain’s seat with just 10 days to go before the race.

In training over the last few days both crews have concentrated on technical work which has given very little indication of the power available when the flag goes down on Saturday. But the Boat Race is anything but predictable, and if Oxford go against the odds it won't be the first time the form book has been upset. But it will be the first time a Pole has won!