updated 04/06/1981 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 04/06/1981 AT 01:00 AM EST
Susan Brown, 22, will end an all-male tradition that dates to 1829 when she coxswains Oxford University's eight-man crew in the hallowed four-and-one-quarter-mile Oxford-Cambridge race on the Thames this week. A third-year biochemistry major at Wadham College, Brown is described by Oxford Boat Club president Chris Mahoney as "a female version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. On land she's shy, quiet. But get her out on that river and she is confident and very aggressive." By voice and body English, the 5'3", 89-pound coxswain controls the beat of the crew, who average 6'2" and 188 pounds, and steers the fragile, tipsy shell to the best currents. (Brown will not be the lightest cox ever. Oxford, in 1939, and Cambridge, in 1862, came up with 72-pounders.) Miked, she never yells—she just talks persuasively. Last year Brown, whose parents run a kitchen and gift shop in Devonshire, coxed the Oxford women's eight to victory against Cambridge, and she was a member of Britain's women's Olympic team. She beat out 12 men for her new job and, after training six hours daily, is ready for the reputedly rough Cantabrigians. "I will not be intimidated," she warns. "I will choose the very best course and remain in my own water."