Cambridge president George Nash on life as a Boat Race rower

The Boat Race

  • Date: Sunday, 31 March
  • Start time: 16:30 BST

Coverage: BBC One, BBC Sport website and mobiles 1515-1715 BST; BBC Radio 5 live 1600-1730; live text commentary online

Olympic medallist George Nash says there is nothing quite like the intensity he will feel when he takes to the water for the 159th Boat Race on Sunday.

The 23-year-old Cambridge University Boat Club president might have won bronze with Will Satch in the men's pair at London 2012, but a third crack at Oxford is something special.

Nash has already enjoyed victory and suffered defeat on the gruelling 6.8km course along the River Thames between Putney and Mortlake, and after 1,200 hours of hard work spread over six months he is ready to try again.

He talks to BBC Sport about an average day for a Boat Race rower, balancing training with studying, the standard of racing and why it's all worth it.

Typical day

"The alarm clock goes off at 05:10 GMT so we can catch a train to Ely in Cambridgeshire where we row. We do a couple of hours out on the water and then have to head back to university for 09:00 for lectures.

Brutal training

Every member of the Boat Race crews trains for approximately two hours for every stroke in the Race. It takes about 600 strokes to complete the course - so that works out at 1,200 hours over six months, training seven days a week

"How long you're at university depends on your course, and if you're lucky you might have time to get some work done or grab a quick nap. You've got to be back at the boathouse for 13:00 to do some land training for a couple of hours - that's doing some weights or sitting on an ergo [rowing machine].

"Then you head back home, do some more work, have something to eat and then go to sleep. That's pretty much it. Then you do it all over again the next day.

"That's the schedule from the beginning of September right up until the Boat Race at the end of March. We train seven days a week, so we find it very difficult to find time for other things. We get a few half days off here and there but it's pretty intense."

Studying

"I'm studying engineering and in my fourth and final year. It's been going alright so far, but I've got exams at the end of April, so just after the Boat Race I need to get stuck into some serious shifts in the books. I've got to get back on top of it.

It's the only race I've done where I've gone into it feeling like I have more to lose than I have to win

George Nash

"You don't get much time to sit and relax when you're training, so studying is almost like a good break from rowing. I'm always keeping my brain busy and it gives me something else to focus on for a change.

"This year hasn't been so bad because there is not as much contact time in the final year. The first few years were very tough, because the course was very time intensive. Now it's about managing your own time and getting your work done between sessions."

The buzz

"Watching it on the TV last year, because I was focusing on the London Olympics, was really hard. I missed it and wished I was in the boat with the the guys. So it's great to come back and have another go. It's an all-consuming event - you live and breathe it - and it's unique in the world of rowing.

"It's the ultimate team sport and the race is very tough and very long - there's nothing else like it. Getting eight guys to move together well for 17 minutes is a massive challenge, particularly as we only have six months to train. It's like a streamlined version of your Olympics training - there's not a lot of time to get it together."

The standard of the boat race

GB's Nash & Satch take bronze as New Zealand win pair

"In Britain, Oxford and Cambridge are the strongest two universities in the country - and I think there are two main things which set us apart.

"University rowing isn't well funded in this country so Oxford and Cambridge are very lucky to have sponsorship. That provides enough money to hire professional coaches, have the best equipment and go on training camps. It allows us to have a more professional set up than other universities.

"Secondly, because of the prestige of the Boat Race, the two crews are able to attract the best university rowers from around the world. We're able to get the best guys in, which boosts the competition within the team and helps push us on."

The rivalry

"The rivalry is always there. I think it centres on the fact that it's the only race that either club does and there's a lot to lose. If your opponent beats you, that takes away six months of your life.

"It can get very intense. They're the same as you - studying similar degrees, and we're in similar programmes, so victory means a lot. It's unique because of the pressure you're under. There's a lot on the line compared to other races in the world. It's a high stakes game. It's win or lose.

"It's the only race I've done where I've gone into it feeling like I have more to lose than I have to win - and that adds an edge to the psychology of the race."