The Boat Race

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For "The Race" between Yale and Harvard, see Harvard-Yale Regatta.
For the drinking game, see Boat Race (game).

The Boat Race is a rowing race between the Oxford University Boat Club and the Cambridge University Boat Club. It is rowed annually each Spring on the Thames in London. The event is a popular one, not only with the alumni of the universities, but also with rowers in general and the public. An estimated quarter of a million people watch the race live from the banks of the river, and 2004's television audience of more than a half billion viewers makes the race one of the most watched sports events in the world, and almost certainly the most watched amateur sporting event in the world.<ref>The Olympic Games has a much larger global TV audience (3.9 billion in 2004 according to the Beijing 2008 website [1]) However, despite its tradition of amateurism, as of 2004 only boxing remained a completely amateur event.</ref> The first race was in 1829 and it has been held annually since 1856, with the exception of the two world wars.

Members of both teams are traditionally known as blues and each boat as a "Blue Boat", with Cambridge in light blue and Oxford dark blue.

Contents

[edit] The course

The course is 4 miles and 374 yards (6,779 m) from Putney to Mortlake, passing Barnes and Hammersmith; it is sometimes referred to as the Championship Course. The race is for heavyweight eights (i.e., for eight rowers with a cox steering, and no restrictions on weight). The race is rowed up stream, but is timed to start about an hour before high-water on the incoming flood tide. The net effect is that the water is still moving up stream, with the crews [2]. This affects the lines that the coxswains take for the fastest course. The course for the main part of the races' history has been from Putney to Mortlake, but there have been a few other courses:

In addition, there were four unofficial boat races held during World War II away from London — 1940 (Henley-on-Thames), 1943 (Sandford-on-Thames), 1944 (River Great Ouse, Ely), and 1945. As none of those competing were awarded blues, these races are not included in the official list.

[edit] History

The tradition was started by Charles Merivale, a student at Cambridge, and his schoolfriend Charles Wordsworth who was at Oxford. Cambridge challenged Oxford to a race, and the challenge was repeated the next year. The tradition continues, with the loser challenging the winner to a re-match annually.

The race in 1877 was declared a dead heat. Legend in Oxford has it that the judge, "Honest John" Phelps, was asleep under a bush as the crews came by leading him to announce the result as a "dead heat to Oxford by four feet", but this is not borne out by contemporary reports. The Times said:

"Oxford, partially disabled, were making effort after effort to hold their rapidly waning lead, while Cambridge, who, curiously enough, had settled together again, and were rowing almost as one man, were putting on a magnificent spurt at 40 strokes to the minute, with a view of catching their opponents before reaching the winning-post. Thus struggling over the remaining portion of the course, the two eights raced past the flag alongside one another, and the gun fired amid a scene of excitement rarely equalled and never exceeded. Cheers for one crew were succeeded by counter-cheers for the other, and it was impossible to tell what the result was until the Press boat backed down to the Judge and inquired the issue. John Phelps, the waterman, who officiated, replied that the noses of the boats passed the post strictly level, and that the result was a dead heat."
Image:2002-oxbridge-boat-race.jpg
Exhausted crews at the finish of the 2002 Boat Race

Though the contest is strictly speaking between amateurs and indeed the competitors must be students of the university for whom they race, the training schedules each team undertakes are very gruelling. Typically each team trains for six days a week for six months before the event. Such is the competitive spirit between the universities it is common for Olympic standard rowers to compete, notably including four times Olympic gold medallist Matthew Pinsent who rowed for Oxford in 1990, 1991, and 1993. Olympic Gold medallists from the 2000 Olympic games Tim Foster (Oxford 1997), Luka Grubor, and Kieran West (Cambridge 1999, 2001, 2006) have also raced for their university. This has led to unproven accusations that these students are admitted entrance to university not because of their academic ability but rather their rowing skill. Recent evidence suggests that this is not the case. The 2005 Cambridge crew, for example, contained four Ph.D. students, including a fully qualified medical doctor and a veterinarian. Such accusations are likely to continue to be raised, however.

In 1987, a disagreement arose amongst the Oxford team which became known as the "Oxford mutiny". A group of talented American oarsmen were enrolled at Oxford and were prepared to compete in the race. But they became embroiled in a conflict with the team president who wanted to place himself in the boat over more qualified, internationally seasoned oarsmen. This eventually led the Americans to protest what they perceived to be the president's abuse of power by withdrawing en mass six weeks before the race was due to start. As Gavin Stewart, the stroke and mainstay of the winning Oxford eight, stated:

"As for the Americans starting the 'mutiny', well they didn't. The 'mutiny' happened because the squad had lost respect for Donald Macdonald as president, not least because he made it clear that he had a guaranteed seat... The spark was the decision to set aside the result of a trial between Donald and one of the Americans (which Donald lost), giving them both seats and dropping another (British) rower. The Americans began by supporting British rowers, not the other way round."

To the surprise of many, Oxford, with a crew partially composed of oarsmen from the reserve team, went on to win the race.

Coach Dan Topolski wrote a book entitled True Blue: Oxford Boat Race Mutiny on the incident. A movie based on the book, True Blue, was released in 1996.

In that year Beefeater Gin became the official sponsors of the boat race, taking over from the first sponsorship, by Ladbrokes, which dated back to 1976.

Recent years have seen especially dramatic races. In 2002, the favoured Cambridge crew led with only a few hundred metres to go, when a Cambridge oarsman collapsed from exhaustion and Oxford rowed through to win by three-quarters of a length. They did so on the outside of the last riverbend, a feat last accomplished in 1952. Few observers expected the 2003 race to match the 2002 for excitement. Cambridge were substantially heavier and appeared to be the favourites. Two days prior to the race, however, the Cambridge crew suffered a collision on the river in which oarsman Wayne Pommen was injured. With a replacement in Pommen's seat, Cambridge went on to lose to a determined Oxford crew by a record slim margin of one foot. In that year, there were 2 sets of brothers rowing; Matt Smith and David Livingston for Oxford and James Livingston and Ben Smith for Cambridge. Cambridge gained revenge in 2004 in a race marred by dramatic clashes of oars in the early stages, and the unseating of Oxford's bowman.

The most recent race in 2006 was won by Oxford, with some attributing their victory to a pump that was getting rid of excess water from their boat. However, this is not against the rules, and it remains unclear as to why Cambridge did not also use a pump.

Although the heavyweight men's eights are the main draw, the two universities compete in other rowing boat races. The main boat race is preceded by a race between the two reserve crews (called "Isis" for Oxford and "Goldie" for Cambridge).

The women's eights, women's reserve eights, men's lightweight eights, men's lightweight reserve eights, and women's lightweight eights race in the Henley Boat Races on a different day.

The event is now a British national institution, and is televised live each year. As of the 2005 race, the BBC handed over broadcasting rights to ITV, after 66 years. The current score in all races is Cambridge 78 wins, Oxford 73, and one dead heat.

[edit] Build-up

Training for the boat race officially begins in September, before the start of term. The first tests are in November at the British Indoor Rowing Championships where each university sends around 20 rowers to compete. Everyone races 2 km on an indoor rower with the club presidents using adjacent machines. Both universities also send crews to the Fours Head race in London which is raced over the Boat Race course in reverse.

In December, the coaches put out Trial Eights where two crews from the same university race each other over the full boat race course. These crews are given names such as Kara and Whakamanawa (Māori words for strength and honour, Cambridge 2004) or Cowboys and Indians (Oxford 2004).

Over the Christmas period the squads go on training camps abroad, where final places for the blue boats are decided. After the final blue boat crews have been decided they race against the top crews from the UK and abroad (e.g. in recent years they have raced Leander, Molesey, and the German international crew). These races are only over part of the course (from Putney to Chiswick Eyot).

In case of injury or illness, each university has ten extra rowers, eight in the reserves boats (called Isis at Oxford and Goldie at Cambridge) and two as the spare pair. Isis and Goldie boats race 30 mins before the Blue Boat event over the same course. As for the spare pair, in the week before the main event they race each other from the mile post to university stone (1 mile long). In the final week, there is also an official weigh in and the average crew weights announced.

[edit] Trivia

  • "I can't see who's in the lead but it's either Oxford or Cambridge." — John Snagge (BBC radio commentator).
  • "Boat race" became such a popular phrase that it was incorporated into Cockney rhyming slang, for "face".
  • In the arms of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, which covers much of the course, two griffin supporters hold oars, one light blue, one dark, in reference to the Boat Race. These colours are highly unusual in English heraldry.
  • The first female to take part in the race was Susan Brown, who coxed for Oxford in 1981.
  • Famous participants in the race include George Mallory (Cambridge 1906,1907,1908), Andrew Irvine (Oxford 1923), Lord Snowdon (Cambridge 1950), David Rendel (Oxford 1974), Colin Moynihan (Oxford 1977), and Hugh Laurie (Cambridge 1980).
  • One entertainment for spectators is the possibility of a boat sinking. This happened to Cambridge in 1859 and 1978, and to Oxford in 1925 and 1951. Both boats sank in 1912, and the race was re-run, and in 1984, Cambridge sank after crashing into a stationary barge before the race had started.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref><ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Cambridge's sinking in 1978 was named in 79th place on Channel 4's list of the 100 Greatest Sporting Moments.
  • At Putney, Oxford boats from Westminster School Boat Club, and Cambridge from King's College School Boat Club.
  • The Queen's-McGill Challenge Boat Race was modelled after the Oxbridge Boat Race, and is considered the Canadian equivalent (although it has not yet reached the same level of prominence).

[edit] Results

  • Cambridge: 78 wins
  • Oxford: 73 wins
  • Dead heats: 1
Date Winner Time
June 10, 1829 Oxford 14.03
June 17, 1836 Cambridge 36.00
April 3, 1839 Cambridge 31.00
April 15, 1840 Cambridge 29.03
April 14, 1841 Cambridge 32.03
June 11, 1842 Oxford 30.01
March 15, 1845 Cambridge 23.03
April 3, 1846 Cambridge 21.05
April 29, 1849 Cambridge 22.00
December 15, 1849 Oxford foul
April 3, 1852 Oxford 21.36
April 8, 1854 Oxford 25.29
March 15, 1856 Cambridge 25.45
April 4, 1857 Oxford 22.05
March 27, 1858 Cambridge 21.23
April 15, 1859 Oxford 24.04
March 31, 1860 Cambridge 26.05
March 23, 1861 Oxford 23.03
April 12, 1862 Oxford 24.04
March 28, 1863 Oxford 23.06
March 19, 1864 Oxford 21.04
April 8, 1865 Oxford 21.24
March 24, 1866 Oxford 25.35
April 13, 1867 Oxford 22.39
April 4, 1868 Oxford 20.56
March 17, 1869 Oxford 20.04
April 6, 1870 Cambridge 22.04
April 1, 1871 Cambridge 23.01
March 23, 1872 Cambridge 21.15
March 29, 1873 Cambridge 19.35
March 28, 1874 Cambridge 22.35
March 20, 1875 Oxford 22.02
April 8, 1876 Cambridge 20.02
March 24, 1877 Dead Heat 24.08
April 13, 1878 Oxford 22.15
April 5, 1879 Cambridge 21.18
March 22, 1880 Oxford 21.23
April 8, 1881 Oxford 21.51
April 1, 1882 Oxford 20.12
March 15, 1883 Oxford 21.18
April 7, 1884 Cambridge 21.39
March 28, 1885 Oxford 21.36
April 3, 1886 Cambridge 22.03
March 26, 1887 Cambridge 20.52
March 24, 1888 Cambridge 20.48
March 30, 1889 Cambridge 20.14
March 26, 1890 Oxford 22.03
March 21, 1891 Oxford 21.48
April 9, 1892 Oxford 19.01
March 22, 1893 Oxford 18.45
March 17, 1894 Oxford 21.39
March 30, 1895 Oxford 20.05
March 28, 1896 Oxford 20.01
April 3, 1897 Oxford 19.12
March 26, 1898 Oxford 22.15
March 25, 1899 Cambridge 21.04
March 31, 1900 Cambridge 18.45
March 30, 1901 Oxford 22.31
March 22, 1902 Cambridge 19.09
April 1, 1903 Cambridge 19.33
March 26, 1904 Cambridge 21.37
April 1, 1905 Oxford 20.35
April 7, 1906 Cambridge 19.25
March 16, 1907 Cambridge 20.26
April 4, 1908 Cambridge 19.02
April 3, 1909 Oxford 19.05
March 23, 1910 Oxford 20.14
April 1, 1911 Oxford 18.29
April 1, 1912 Oxford 22.05
March 13, 1913 Oxford 20.53
March 28, 1914 Cambridge 20.23
March 28, 1920 Cambridge 21.11
March 30, 1921 Cambridge 19.45
April 1, 1922 Cambridge 19.27
March 24, 1923 Oxford 20.54
April 5, 1924 Cambridge 18.41
Date Winner Time
March 28, 1925 Cambridge 21.05
March 27, 1926 Cambridge 19.29
April 2, 1927 Cambridge 20.14
March 31, 1928 Cambridge 20.25
March 23, 1929 Cambridge 19.24
April 12, 1930 Cambridge 19.09
March 21, 1931 Cambridge 19.26
March 19, 1932 Cambridge 19.11
April 1, 1933 Cambridge 20.57
March 17, 1934 Cambridge 18.03
April 6, 1935 Cambridge 19.48
April 4, 1936 Cambridge 21.06
March 24, 1937 Oxford 22.39
April 2, 1938 Oxford 20.03
April 1, 1939 Cambridge 19.03
March 30, 1946 Oxford 19.54
March 29, 1947 Cambridge 23.01
March 27, 1948 Cambridge 17.05
March 26, 1949 Cambridge 18.57
April 1, 1950 Cambridge 20.15
March 26, 1951 Cambridge 20.05
March 29, 1952 Oxford 20.23
March 28, 1953 Cambridge 19.54
April 3, 1954 Oxford 20.23
March 26, 1955 Cambridge 19.01
March 24, 1956 Cambridge 18.36
March 30, 1957 Cambridge 19.01
April 5, 1958 Cambridge 18.15
March 28, 1959 Oxford 18.52
April 2, 1960 Oxford 18.59
April 1, 1961 Cambridge 19.22
April 7, 1962 Cambridge 19.46
March 23, 1963 Oxford 20.47
March 28, 1964 Cambridge 19.18
April 3, 1965 Oxford 18.07
March 26, 1966 Oxford 19.12
March 25, 1967 Oxford 18.52
March 30, 1968 Cambridge 18.22
April 5, 1969 Cambridge 18.04
March 28, 1970 Cambridge 20.22
March 27, 1971 Cambridge 17.58
April 1, 1972 Cambridge 18.36
March 7, 1973 Cambridge 19.21
April 6, 1974 Oxford 17.35
March 29, 1975 Cambridge 19.27
March 20, 1976 Oxford 16.58
March 19, 1977 Oxford 19.28
March 25, 1978 Oxford 18.58
March 17, 1979 Oxford 20.33
April 5, 1980 Oxford 19.02
April 4, 1981 Oxford 18.11
March 27, 1982 Oxford 18.21
April 2, 1983 Oxford 19.07
March 18, 1984 Oxford 16.45
April 6, 1985 Oxford 17.11
March 29, 1986 Cambridge 17.58
March 28, 1987 Oxford 19.59
April 2, 1988 Oxford 17.35
March 25, 1989 Oxford 18.27
March 31, 1990 Oxford 17.22
March 30, 1991 Oxford 16.59
April 4, 1992 Oxford 17.44
March 27, 1993 Cambridge 17.00
March 26, 1994 Cambridge 18.09
April 1, 1995 Cambridge 18.04
April 6, 1996 Cambridge 16.58
March 29, 1997 Cambridge 17.38
March 28, 1998 Cambridge 16.19
April 3, 1999 Cambridge 16.41
March 25, 2000 Oxford 18.04
March 24, 2001 Cambridge 17.44
March 30, 2002 Oxford 16.54
April 6, 2003 Oxford 18.06
March 28, 2004 Cambridge 18.47
March 27, 2005 Oxford 16.42
April 2, 2006 Oxford 18.26

[edit] Unofficial wartime races

Date Location Winner
1940 Henley-on-Thames Cambridge
1943 Sandford-on-Thames Oxford
1944 River Great Ouse, Ely Oxford
1945 Unknown Cambridge

[edit] Statistics

  • Course Record: Cambridge 1998, 16 min 19 s
  • Heaviest crew: Oxford 2005, 15 st 6 lb (98 kg; 216 lb) average
  • Tallest rower: Josh West, Cambridge 1999/2000/2001/2002, 6 ft 9.5 in (2.07 m)
  • Tallest crew: Cambridge 1999, 6 ft 6.3 in (1.98 m) average

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Notes and references

<references />

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fr:The Boat Race it:Regata Oxford-Cambridge nl:Boat Race fi:Cambridge–Oxford-soutukilpailu vi:Cuộc đua thuyền Oxford-Cambridge uk:Перегони човнів

The Boat Race

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