Based on a true story, the Boy in Blue stars a very young, athletic Nicholas Cage in the role of Canadian bootlegger, Ned Hanlan, who turned into a legendary world class rower.
Discovered by an amateur oarsman named Bill, Ned manages to get his paws on the first ever sliding seat sculling boat, and is propelled to fame when he wins a race on the Schuylkill in Philadelphia, beating his American opponent Plaistad. His win is a total upset, and brings Ned under the scrutiny of a wealthy man named Knox who plans to make lots of money from placing bets on Hanlan.
Knox, makes Bill an offer he can't refuse, then takes over Ned's future and gets him a professional trainer in order to prepare him for major races. In the meantime, Ned and Margaret, Knox's niece, begin a flirtation that ultimately turns into an excuse for Cage to get nekkid... er, to fall in love...
When Ned finally gets an opportunity to race against the Australian world champion, Trickett, an arrogant, cocky, gobby type (i.e. typical australian), they get into a bit of a barney; Hanlan rows into Trickett's scull and knocks him in - as a result of which he is banned from racing for life in the United States.
A chastened Ned, returns home and turns to Walter to train him so that he can enter and race in England at the world championships on the Thames and vindicate himself.
When the time for the race finally comes, his old friend is bribed to loosen a bolt under one of the pins on his boat (well you've got to have gate problems in rowing movies), so during the race Hanlan gets into trouble but his friend, feeling guilty, jumps in and swims over to hand him a spanner.
Hanlan amazingly (like you didn't see it coming) goes on to win.