Edwin Lerner

The Oxford Cambridge Boat Race – Normally Held In London

One of London’s best-known events is the annual Boat Race, a contest between crews from Oxford and Cambridge University Boat Clubs held every spring on the River Thames. The two teams go head to head over a 4.2 mile (6.8 kilometre) course that stretches between Putney and Mortlake.

In a normal year, there are plenty of good vantage points where you can watch these two academic titans competing. In 2021, however, the race was held on Easter Sunday in COVID-safe conditions without spectators on the River Ouse in Cambridgeshire. Cambridge won both the men and women’s races and have now won the men’s race five times more than Oxford, the score being eighty-five to eighty, with a dead heat in 1877.

In the women’s race, Cambridge are even further ahead with forty-five wins to Oxford’s thirty. The women’s race first took place in 1927 and is now held shortly before the men’s race on the same course. The men’s boat race was first held in 1827 and has taken place annually since 1856, except during the First and Second World Wars and in 2020, due to restrictions made necessary by the Covid pandemic.

The Boat Race: Cambridge at their stakeboat. Photo Credit: © Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons. The Boat Race: Cambridge at their stake boat. Photo Credit: © Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The boat crews are known as ‘eights’ because each boat has eight rowers. However, there are nine people in each boat with one cox (often female) steering the boat but not allowed to row. Those selected to row are awarded a ‘blue’: light blue for Cambridge, dark blue for Oxford. The race is strictly amateur so no monetary prizes are awarded but rowing in the crew of one of the two oldest universities in Britain is regarded as a great honour. The 2021 race was sponsored by cryptocurrency dealers Gemini.

A course for the 2022 Boat Race has yet to be decided, although it is hoped to hold the race in London along the River Thames. The closure of Hammersmith Bridge, about halfway along the course, makes this problematic, however. In 2019 all boats except emergency vessels were prohibited from travelling beneath the bridge and, if the race is held in London, it may start by Big Ben at Westminster and finish at the usual starting point by Putney Bridge. This will make the course over five miles (eight kilometres) long.

Big crowds are expected if the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race does return to London. In a normal year over a quarter of a million people watch the race live from the side of the River Thames, while the international television audience for the race is estimated at half a billion people in 200 countries.

Regular route for the University Boat Race Thames map. Photo Credit: © Pointillist via Wikimedia Commons. The regular route for the University Boat Race Thames map. Photo Credit: © Pointillist via Wikimedia Commons.

Edwin Lerner

Named Edwin (an early king of Northern England) but usually called ‘Eddie’, I conducted extended tours around Britain and Ireland for many years and now work as a freelance guide and tour manager with a little writing and editing on the side.  I specialise in public transport and walking…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may also like

12 Illuminations from Lumiere London Festival 2016

Lumiere London is a new lights festival produced by Artichoke and supported by the Mayor of London. Bringing together some of the world's most exciting artists working with light, Lumiere London transforms many of London's most iconic streets and building in the West End and King's Cross area. The festival is completely free to attend and was launched on Thursday, 14th January 2016 and will run through Sunday, 17th January 2016. Below are 12 of the illuminations viewed in the West End area for Lumiere London 2016.

Read more

Annual Sheep Drive Across London Bridge

Granted Freedom of the City of London in 1993, I have often been asked whether I had ever exercised my right to herd sheep or cattle across London Bridge. This ancient privilege to bring animals into the City without payment of tolls had long since been abandoned when the livestock markets closed and in any case was of no special importance once the gates and a single river crossing were replaced by the modern landscape we all know today.

Read more