What is The Boat Race?
The Boat Race is an annual event between crews from the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge. The Men’s Boat Race was first raced in 1829 and is now one of the world’s oldest and most famous amateur sporting events. The Women’s Boat Race first took place in 1927. For every student athlete in one of the eight crews competing, being part of The Boat Race is an unrivalled educational and athletic experience.
The world-famous sporting event between the UK’s two greatest universities now spans 185 years of rivalry and The Boat Race has become synonymous with British tradition and excellence. The Boat Race has established itself as the epitome of amateur sport, raced by scholar athletes who combine academic rigour with elite physical prowess. There is no greater occasion.
The Boat Race takes place in London on the famous Championship Course that stretches over 4.25 miles of tidal Thames in West London between Putney and Mortlake.
The Boat Race is regularly attended by over 250,000 spectators at the banks of the river and watched by many millions more on television.
2024 will see the 169th Men’s Boat Race and the 78th Women’s Boat Race.
Fans of The Boat Race from around the world usually pick one team to support! Cambridge University Boat Club wears the light ‘Duck Egg’ blue, whilst the Oxford crews wear dark blue.
The teams compete in eight-oared rowing boats, each steered by a cox who sits in the stern or back of the boat. The cox is the only crew member who faces in the direction they are moving. The rowers and coxes on the teams come from all backgrounds with different levels of rowing experience. The crews will be made up of Olympians, World Champions alongside those students who learned to row at Oxford and Cambridge.
All students on the teams are subject to the same entry requirements as any other students at the Universities and to be eligible to row, all students must be studying on a full-time course. Competing for a place in one of The Boat Race crews demands a high level of organisation as the students balance demanding academic commitments alongside training.
The men’s and women’s top crews are known as the Blue Boats after the award their universities give them for competing in The Boat Race. Both universities have reserve crews. For the men, Oxford’s reserve boat is called Isis, Cambridge’s is called Goldie. The women’s reserve boats are called Osiris (Oxford) and Blondie (Cambridge).
The Championship Course
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.
The crew who wins the coin toss before The Boat Race choses which side (or station) they will race on. The stations are known as Middlesex and Surrey, with advantages and disadvantages for each side because of the bends in the river.
The Race starts downstream of Putney Bridge and passes under Hammersmith Bridge and Barnes Bridge before finishing just before Chiswick Bridge.
The record time over the course in The Men’s Boat Race is 16 minutes 19 seconds, set by Cambridge in 1998 and for The Women’s Boat Race is 18 minutes 33 seconds set by Cambridge in 2017.
The Women’s Boat Race
The Women’s Boat Race first took place in 1927 and it was at this stage, not a side-by-side race but a contest of time and style.
From 1935 the women’s races became a side by side contest, held alternately on the River Cam in Cambridge or The Isis in Oxford.
In the 1977 The Women’s Boat Race moved to Henley-on-Thames where the event was well supported by both University communities.
In 2015 the Women’s Boat Race moved to the Championship Course and now takes place on the same day in the same location as the Men’s Boat Race.