'Extra member' will spur on boat crew; Vessel named after tragic rower Vicky.
THE memory of a rower tragically killed on her way to work will buoy up Newcastle's elite crew as they battle for victory in this weekend's university boating clash.
The senior men's side will have an extra member in the form of Vicky, their top-of-the-range racing boat.
Known as an eight, the boat carries the name of former Newcastle University student and Newcastle University Boat Club member Vicky Buchanan.
The geography graduate was killed in a road accident while cycling to work at Chelsea Football Club in 2006. Her former boat club members have described her as "a tremendous asset" to the club. This weekend will be the third time the team has used the hi-tech boat as they go head-to-head with Durham University's finest rowers along the River Tyne.
The club's Italian head coach Angelo Savarino said: "The boat helped us to achieve our first overall victory in the race against Durham last year and with Vicky the club has already won five pennants for the fastest crew at London's Head of the River races."
With just days until the annual clash the teams are hard at work making sure they and their boats are in peak condition for the day.
Newcastle University Boat Club's boatman Brad Jewell believes getting the choice of boat and the set up right can make the difference between winning and losing in a sport where the results can be decided by the narrowest of margins.
Brad, who trained as a naval architect at Newcastle University, said: "Rowing is a very technical sport. Although all eights essentially look the same, they are made in different sizes for different weights of crews, so for example the men's crews usually have a deeper and wider boat than the women's crews.
"If a boat is not right for the average weight of the crew, the settings won't be efficient, making it more difficult to row and uncomfortable for the rowers."
Costing up to pounds 30,000 each the boats use the latest technology.
Brad added: "Our rowers adopt a style where they lean a long way back towards the end of each stroke, so the hull has to be able to remain stable on the water as the weight of eight rowers is transferred through the boat."
They are fitted with sliding seats, a feature brought in by legendary North East oarsman, Harry Clasper.
Before then rowers used to wear leather trousers and cover them in grease to help them slide back and forth in the boat.
Newcastle's rowers will be hoping to emulate Clasper's glory days on the Tyne when they compete against their Durham rivals in the 2010 University Boat Race this Sunday.
Racing starts at 1pm.
2010 RACE IS SET TO BE ONE OF CLOSEST EVER THIS weekend's boat race will be one of the closest ever if recent race results are anything to go by.
Over the Bank Holiday weekend the universities went up against each other in the 2010 British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) Regatta. Last year's River Tyne losers Durham University were crowned champions of the regatta for the seventh year running as the racked up an impressive 1,011 points.
Last year's boat race victors Newcastle placed third behind the Imperial College London.
Dr Peter Warburton, director of sport at Durham University, said: "Our delight at winning the British Universities' Championships for a seventh successive year was even greater given the strength of the other universities represented. "It once again illustrates the prowess of our top rowers, and also underlines the strength in depth of the rowing programme at Durham."
Newcastle University's rowers came away from the regatta with three gold medals, as well as five silver and three bronze.
Their boat club's head coach Angelo Savarino said the results make for a classic event on Sunday.
He added: "We were beaten by Durham in the senior events, but Newcastle won both of the freshers races. It is going to be really close, with everything from a 4-0 victory either way, to a 2-2 draw, or any other result in between possible on the day."
NAMING TRIBUTE Angelo Savarino who has come from the river Tiber in Rome to coach university rowers on the river Tyne. Right, Vicky Buchanan