Search This Blog

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

The Boat Race

The Boat Race is an annual contest between two rowing crews from Oxford and Cambridge universities.

The Boat Race was started by two friends Charles Merivale (Cambridge) and Charles (nephew of William) Wordsworth (Oxford). On February 20, 1829 a letter was sent to Oxford proposing a match. Oxford won the first boat race by 5 or 6 lengths.

It was first rowed between Oxford and Cambridge on June 10, 1829 from Hambledon Lock to Henley Bridge - a distance of 2.25 miles.but has been held on the Thames in London since 1836. It is rowed over a distance of 4 miles 374 yards (6.779km ) from Putney to Mortlake – upstream, but rowed on an incoming tide.

It has been an annual contest from 1839 (apart from the war years). The competition was halted during World War Two, although there were a number of unofficial races in Henley-on-Thames (1940), Sandford-on-Thames (1943) and River Great Ouse, Ely (1944).

The Boat Race is the second oldest national sporting event (only the Derby is older).

An engraving of the 1841 Boat Race, with Lambeth Palace

The current course record is just 16 mins and 19 secs, set by Cambridge in 1998. The slowest winning time was nearly 10 minutes longer, at 26 mins 5 secs (Cambridge 1860).

The lightest ever coxes both weighed just 5 stone 2 lbs (32.66kgs). They were Francis Archer (Cambridge 1862) and Hart Massey (Oxford 1939). There is now a 55kg minimum weight limit for the cox.

The heaviest competitor ever to take part was 17st 6lbs Thorsten Engelmann, the stroke man of the 2007 Cambridge team.

The tallest ever oarsmen, Josh West, was a whopping 6ft 9.5in. He rowed for Cambridge every year from 1999 to 2002. In 1999 the Cambridge crew had an average height of 6ft 7in.

There have been two crew ‘mutinies’ in Boat Race history, both involving the Oxford team. In 1959 a group of dissidents rebelled against the strict methods of their coach, before returning to the crew and claiming victory by six lengths. In 1987 a number of US oarsmen refused to row after a fellow American was dropped from the crew. Oxford went on to win with a team made up partially from the reserve squad.

Cambridge won the 1839 University Boat Race by 35 lengths, the largest winning margin in the history of the race.

The closest finish in Boat Race history came on March 24, 1877 when the event was declared a dead heat. Legend has it the judge declared a tie because he was asleep when the race finished.

The smallest winning margin occurred in 2003, when Oxford beat Cambridge by just one foot.

There have been six sinkings in Boat Race history. On March 31, 1921, both boats sank and the race had to be held again on 1st April.

In 1984 the 130th Boat Race was postponed when minutes before the start the Cambridge boat collided with a barge and sank. The race took place 24 hours later on March 18th, making it the first time the event had been held on a Sunday. The rerun was won by Oxford. 

The 1989 Boat Race on March 25th was the first time in the event's history that both coxes were women. Oxford won.

In 2003, two sets of brothers competed in the Boat Race: Matt Smith and David Livingston for Oxford, and Ben Smith and James Livingston for Cambridge. All four had been pupils together at Hampton School in south-west London.

Trenton Oldfield was sentenced to six months in jail for interrupting the 2012 Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge Universities by jumping into the Thames. The political campaigner claimed his actions were a protest against elitism.

The record for taking part in the most races is held by Boris Rankov, who rowed six times for Oxford between 1978 and 1983. He is now a Boat Race Umpire.

It takes approximately 600 strokes to complete the race. For every one stroke, each crew member trains or an average of 2 hours.

Robert Ross became the youngest person to ever take part in the Boat Race when he rowed for Cambridge in 1977, aged just 18 years 200 days.

The phrase ‘Boat Race’ has entered Cockney rhyming slang to mean ‘face’.

The actor Hugh Laurie, of House fame (see below), rowed for Cambridge in the 1980 Boat Race on April 5th. His boat narrowly lost by five feet in the closest finish for a century.

Other famous faces to have taken part in the Boat Race include Lord Snowdon (Cambridge 1950) and Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Oxford 2010), the American twins who sued Mark Zuckerberg after he allegedly stole their idea for Facebook.


No comments:

Post a Comment