Oxford and Cambridge are preparing for a rough ride in the 152nd University Boat Race on the River Thames this Sunday.

Squally winds have made the final week of preparation difficult and Olympic gold medal-list Kieran West, seeking to complete a hat-trick of victories with Cambridge, is ready for what he describes as "sinking conditions".

The Light Blues survived a taste of that on Tuesday and West is prepared for a torrid time on the Thames after returning to Cambridge to study for a PhD in First World War Strategy and Military Intelligence.

The intelligence suggests westerly winds and West, who won his Olympic gold with Great Britain's eight at the Sydney Games -between Cambridge Boat Race successes of 1999 and 2001 - revealed the problems the rival crews have faced.

"Two days ago, we were basically in sinking conditions," he said. "Luckily, the wind wasn't quite at the right angle to sink us but you can't work on the minutiae of your stroke when you are bouncing up and down and trying hard not to fall in.

"If the wind is too bad and comes at you at the wrong angle, there is the possibility of going through white horses and waves pouring into the boat. It's not very pleasant. The boats, built for safety, won't actually sink. They will sit under the water because they are very buoyant."

Cambridge are nine ounces a man heavier. Last yea,r Oxford powered to a two-length victory with the heaviest crew in Boat Race history at 123st 12lb - an average of 15st 6lb. This year, they scaled 115st 13lb, averaging 14st 7lb, with the Light Blues 116st 4lb.

Oxford president Barney Williams said the outcome would depend on "the training you have done, the hard work you have put in and who's going to row the best on the day".

He conceded that the conditions favour the more experienced Cambridge crew "a bit", adding: "You have to have the power to handle it and that makes our job that much more specific. We have to look for more."