The Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race

The Boat Race

Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race 2020 cancelled

The annual Oxford and Cambridge boat race, due to take place on 29 Mar 2020, has been cancelled for the first time since World War II.

What began as a humble race at Henley-on-Thames in 1829, organised by friends at Oxford and Cambridge Universities, become an annual fixture in 1856. These days, the stakes are very high and it’s taken extremely seriously by both universities. Only two World Wars have stopped The Oxford and Cambridge boat race, followed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Boat Race history

In 1829, when Oxford University student Charles Wordsworth (nephew of poet William) chatted to his pal Charles Merivale (a student at Cambridge), they set up a rowing race as a challenge between their respective universities’ teams. It took place at Henley-on-Thames and a few years later, it become a regular fixture.

Since 1856, it’s been an annual encounter and in recent years has taken place on the River Thames between Putney and Mortlake. Look out for ‘UBR’ (University Boat Race) marked on stones on the south bank of the Thames.

It has seen dramas, from a 1978 sinking (Cambridge) to a protester who leapt into the rowers’ path in 2012. In 2019, when Olympic gold medallist James Cracknell (then aged 46) pulled on the deep-blue Lycra of the Cambridge rowing team, he was the oldest-ever competitor to take part in the historic Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race.

Women and The Boat Race

The women’s Boat Race had a rockier start. Founded in 1927, its first race on Oxford’s River Isis drew ‘large and hostile crowds gathered on the towpath’, The Times reported. Shockingly, it was only in 2015 that the men’s and women’s races were given equal billing. Proceedings traditionally start with the women’s race, followed by the men’s starting gun going off one hour later. The Boat Races follow a 6.8km (four-mile) route between Putney and Mortlake on the River Thames.

If you’re in London and you’d still like to explore the river, read about the River Thames’ greatest moments

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