The annual Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race
A boat race between two university teams may not seem like a sporting event that would stand the test of time, but the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race has a long and illustrious past. This year, it takes place on Sunday 7 April March.
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, just a few years later, it become a regular fixture. Since 1856, it’s been an annual encounter – except during the World Wars – 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 sinking (Cambridge in 1978) to a protester who leapt into the rowers’ path (2012). The women’s university boat race is held on the same course as the men’s – and since 2015 spectators can enjoy them both on the same day.
The women’s start time is 2.13pm, while the men’s sets off at 3.10pm.
Two weeks earlier, the traditional ‘warm-up’ events bring dozens of crews and boats on the river for the exciting The Head of the River Race, which first took place in 1926. It follows the same iconic route as the University Boat Race, except in the opposite direction. Four hundred top crews from around the world, and as far afield as Australia, set off at 10-second intervals and their times are recorded. In 2017, The Head of the River Race was cancelled due to bad weather conditions – so fingers crossed for a wind-free day!