Boat Race saying rings true for Pinsent
There is a saying about the Oxford and Cambridge University Boat Race - 'two crews row alongside one another until one of them decides it's not going to win'.
It is an adage Britain's four-times Olympic gold medallist Matthew Pinsent completely agrees with.
"The tactics of the boat race are if you're ahead you're going to win," he told reporters.
"If you get a length up on a crew, it's very difficult for them to come back, so all sense of pace judgment goes out the window.
"It's not the quickest crew from A to B, it's 'can we be ahead of you?'
"If you fall behind you can't see the other crew. It feels suddenly like the boat goes heavy. It's a horrible experience," added the 37-year-old who competed three times for Oxford, winning in 1990 and 1991.
The annual four-and-a-quarter mile (6.8-km) race on the Thames, contested between Britain's oldest universities, is a peculiarity in rowing, but one which draws a huge worldwide audience.
There will be a festival atmosphere on the river banks between Putney Bridge and Mortlake for the 153rd edition of the race next Saturday.
"It's a quirky end of the rowing market," the now-retired Pinsent said at a media day organised by Boat Race sponsors Xchanging.
"It's like the National. The Grand National for Joe Public is the most important, visible, popular horse race whereas for the racing community the Grand National is a bit of a kind of 'yeah it's great it's historic, it's an amazing race but it's so quirky it's out on a limb on its own'."
The boat race was first held in 1829 and has come to symbolise the fierce rivalry between the two universities. Unlike the Olympics, there are only two crews and one chance of victory.
"It's one on one. You don't come off the water having finished second going 'ooh that's good'," said Pinsent, who laughingly added that his one boat race defeat in 1993 had scarred him for years.
"In some ways physically it is harder than a 2,000-metre race because it goes on and on and on. But you've only got one other crew to worry about and you can beat another crew," he said when asked to compare the boat race with an Olympics.
"There are boat races that have finished before you get to Hammersmith Bridge, and then the last 10 minutes is easy, whereas an Olympic race you never get to the point where you think 'right we've got this won'.
"It's not that one feels easier than the other because at the end of both races you're knackered but I think there is something special about the boat race," added Pinsent, who famously burst into tears on the podium after winning gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
The Light Blues of Cambridge lead the boat race series 78 to 73 with one dead heat in 1877, although the finishing distance was officially listed as to within six feet.
Oxford have won the last two races but Cambridge president Tom James is hoping to end the Dark Blues' run and secure his first victory.
"I can imagine what it's like to win a boat race but I've not experienced it yet," the 22-year-old engineering student said.
James, from Wrexham, cited his first race in 2003 as the worst of his three defeats, when Cambridge lost by a foot (30 cm) in the closest ever finish.
"There was a lot of experience in the team and we felt it was almost written that we were going to win anyway. When you're young and naive like that then it all comes crashing down in front of you," he said.
"Then it takes a little while to put it all back into perspective. It's just a race but at the time it means the world to you."