BOLTON rower Chris Fairweather has narrowly missed out on taking part in Sunday’s Boat Race.

The 23-year-old from Lostock was pencilled in for one of the eight spots in the Oxford boat for the 160th race against Cambridge.

But he was replaced just 16 days before race day and will now row in the reserve race half an hour before the main event.

It is a tough blow for the former Bolton School pupil who has been part of the Oxford squad who have trained twice a day, six days a week since early September.

The race is one of the oldest and biggest sporting traditions in England and taking part is seen as a highlight of any rower’s career.

But he is fully focused on playing a full part in helping Oxford draw first blood on the day in the reserve race.

“I was extremely close to being in the team,” said the criminal law student who is in his fourth year at Oxford and has been part of the rowing team for two years. “There was a one-off test and the other guy, Tom Watson, beat me.

“He has rowed for Canada at the Under-23 World Championships, so he’s very good, and I am stroking for the reserve crew.”

The pair were vying for the two seat – the position second from the front of the boat – and there was little to choose between them.

Explaining the decision, Oxford chief coach Sean Bowden said: “After further testing in the week after the weigh-in Tom Watson has been selected for the Oxford Blue Boat replacing Chris Fairweather in the two seat.

“Tom brings with him a good deal of experience having stroked three winning Isis (Oxford reserve race boat) crews.

“Chris Fairweather is now rowing in the Isis crew.”

Fairweather, whose race on London’s famous River Thames course starts at 5.25pm, cannot wait for the big day to come after such a long and hard training build-up.

“It was so disappointing not making the team, but I am so looking forward to rowing on the day,” he said.

“There is nothing quite like going under the bridge with all the people hanging off it shouting for you.

“Everyone wants one crew or the other to win and it’s just so thrilling on the start line.

“It’s what you train for and why you do it.”

Six foot four and 13 stone, Fairweather trains with the squad in the gym from 6.30am until lectures at 9am and then for most of the afternoon on the water Tuesday to Sunday.

A former Lostock Primary School pupil, the major sports he took part in at Bolton School were water polo and swimming, and he also played for Lostock Cricket Club between the ages of 12 and 14.

The race, which was first held in 1829 and is now known as the BNY Mellon Boat Race, is watched by thousands along the banks of The Tideway, between Putney and Mortlake in London, and by millions more live on the BBC.