A Brief History Of The Oxbridge Boat Race

March 20, 2018

A Brief History Of The Oxbridge Boat Race

On Sunday, more than one hundred thousand people will be gathering around the River Thames in West London to watch the iconic rowing race between the Oxford University Boat Club and the Cambridge University Boat Club. 



The Boat Race is probably one of the most iconic British races and has been held each year since 1856. The event actually combines two races, one men's race which was first held in 1829 and one women's race which first took place in 1927. However, both races take place on the same day, their official charity being the Cancer Research UK.



The contest covers 4.2 miles of the river, from Putney to Mortlake, as well as over 150 years of history.

I. The Origin Of The Men's Boat Race.



The-Men's-Boat-Race-History

The tradition of the blue boat race first started back in 1829 as a challenge between two school friends Charles Merivale, student at St John’s College, Cambridge, and Charles Wordsworth who was studying at Christ Church, Oxford.


Legend has it that Wordsworth’s father was a master at Trinity and that the Oxford student decided to join him in Cambridge for the holidays, during which he spent most of his time rowing on the Cam.

It was at this time that he met Merivale and the young men decided to set up a challenge.


On 10th February 1829, The Cambridge University Boat Club asked Mr. Snow of St. John’s College, Cambridge, to send a letter to his old boating friend Mr. Staniforth of Christ Church, Oxford, challenging the University to a rowing match near London, right after the easter holidays.



Exactly 4 months later, on June 10th 1829, the blue boats (Cambridge in light blue and Oxford in dark blue) raced each other at Henley-on-Thames, and Oxford came out as the winner.



The second race took place in 1836 and continued on an irregular basis up until 1856 when it became an annual event. 



II. The Origin Of The Women's Boat Race
.

The-Women's-Boat-Race-History

The very first women's boat race took place on The Isis in Oxford, almost 100 years after the first men's boat race, in 1927 to be exact.

It wasn’t an easy battle as the crowd was against women rowing, and was not even seen as a proper contest until 1935.



Indeed, at first, the two rowing boats weren’t even allowed on the water at the same time and were judged by their “steadiness, finish, rhythm and matters of style”. It is only in 1935 in London, that the two crews went on the Tideway water together.



The contest became an annual event only by 1964 and in 2015 it finally started to take place on the same day as the men's event and became part of the same event. 



III. Champions, Scores and Records.

The-Origin-Of-The-British-Rowing-Races

The current men’s champion is Oxford, however Cambridge is leading with a total of 82 wins over 80 for Oxford. There has been one dead heat recorded in 1877, yet rumour has it that Oxford was leading.




Regarding the women’s race, Cambridge is the current Champion and is leading with 42 wins over 30 wins for Oxford.

Both course records are held by Cambridge with 16mins 19sec during the men’s boat race in 1998 and with 18min 33sec during the women’s race in 2017.

We have the feeling that Cambridge might just win it this time… Or maybe we are just saying that because co-founder Anneke is from Cambridgeshire!





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