Last year, sporting history was made when the men in the University Boat Race were joined on the Tideway for the first time by University Women’s Boat Race. First raced in 1829 and 1927 respectively, The University Boat Races are amongst the oldest sporting events in the world.
One of the more unusual events on the British sporting calendar is the University Boat Race, the annual rowing race between Oxford University Boat Club and the Cambridge University Boat Club on the River Thames between Putney to Mortlake.
To the uninitiated , each boat is made up of eight rowers and a cox and they row the 4.2 mile course, somewhat confusingly each boat is known as the “blue boat” due to the crews colours, light blue for Cambridge and dark blue for Oxford. The first race was in 1829 and the event has been annually ever since 1856 except for the war years, at present the scores are Cambridge 81 wins, Oxford 79 wins and one dead heat in 1877.
Part of the mystique of the boat race is often not the race itself which is seldom that close and is often decided by on which side you start. It is when things go wrong that make the headlines. In 1912 both crews sank due to the poor weather, Cambridge sank in 1859 and 1978, Oxford sank in 1925 and 1951. In 1984 Cambridge sank before the race started when their boat hit a barge.
There have also been rumours of mutinies of crews, however the most recent disruption was when a protester swam in front of the boats in 2012. It is not only a contest of brute strength , it is a great advantage to have the fastest current so the ability to read the river is vital.
For much of the races history, spectators tended to have associations with the universities, however since the race was sponsored in 1976 there have been moves to widen the races appeal and it is promoted and broadcast on many media platforms. Crowds have grown in recent years and the most popular spots along the course tend to be well populated, unlike many sporting events this one is free and can be quite enjoyable if the weather is fine and you find a vantage point.
You can enjoy the festival atmosphere of The Boat Race by watching for free from one of the many vantage points along the course. You should be able to find a place to watch on either side of the river along the full length of the course, but particular areas to note are: Putney Embankment and Bishops Park (at the start); Hammersmith and Barnes (mid-course); Dukes Meadows and Chiswick Bridge (at the finish).
Boat Race in the Park events featuring large screens at Bishops Park, Fulham and Furnival Gardens, Hammersmith mean you will be able to watch the whole Race before and after the crews have passed. Refreshments will be available within the parks.
The Championship Course, Putney to Mortlake
The Boat Race course, known as the Championship Course is 4 miles, 374 yards or 6.8 Km long. It stretches between Putney and Mortlake on the River Thames in South West London.
This course was first used for the Boat Race in 1845 and has been used for every race since, (apart from 1846, 1856 and 1863 when the race was held in the opposite direction between Mortlake and Putney). The Fulham/Chiswick side of the course is known as the Middlesex side. The Putney/Barnes side of the course is known as the Surrey side.
The Boat Races are rowed upstream, but are timed to start on the incoming flood tide. The Boat Race is usually an hour before high tide, with the Women’s Boat Race a further hour before so that the crews are rowing with the fastest possible current.
The programme for Race day contains something for everyone – fun for all at the “Boat Race in the Parks” events, the traditional Oxbridge Watermen’s Challenge, and all the action from The Boat Races itself.
27th Mar 2016
The 2016 Cancer Research UK Boat Races
15:10 – The Cancer Research UK Women’s Boat Race
15:25 – Osiris-Blondie Race
15:40 – Isis-Goldie Race
16:10 – The Cancer Research UK Boat Race
For more information, visit the Cancer Research UK Boat Races website here
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