The Oxford and Cambridge Boat race. A race of history.

Come the spring, come to the Varsity matches but to be honest there is the only one that actually catches the imagination of the public and that is the spectacle of the annual Oxford and Cambridge boat race. It’s just these two Universities that get to have a go it’s not the Oxford and Cambridge boat race with this year’s special guest the the University of Glasgow and the University of Aberystwyth. No, this is a battle between the two highest seats of learning. Or it was when it first started in 1829 when it was just students pitting themselves against each other. Many of the rowers are only at the university because of their skill. That might be a way in if your child’s thinking of going and they’re not quite there academically.  Pubs along the route will be bedecked in Oars and Nautical items for the big event and ITV will have cameras on the side and on boats to record the action. Generally, people watch to see if one will sink, and it has happened on occasion.  You can be sure that the teams will be armed with all manner of DIY equipment and maybe even some metal bonding adhesives like the ones you can see at just in case an emergency arises.

How did it all come to pass?

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As we said before the Boat race started in 1829. However, it did not become a regular feature until 1856 where it was held annually except for the two world wars. The race is up the Thames, which might give Oxford a tiny advantage as it flows through Oxford earlier up the Rivers path and Cambridge only get the Cam to practice on. If that’s true it doesn’t seem to make a lot of difference as Cambridge has won, it 83 times to Oxford’s 80. Annoyingly both teams color is a shade of blue. Oxfords are Dark, and Cambridge’s is the lighter.

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They set off from the Putney Bridge and go up to Chiswick bridge a course of 4.2 miles that bends and bows. It’s actually very tactical. The coin toss is vital because if you win you get to choose the side of the river you start on. The idea is to get into the middle of the river as soon as possible as this has the fastest currents and is a big help. This is where it gets a bit exciting as the very posh referee will start shouting the name of the team he thinks is getting too aggressive or sometimes both. Here is the clash of the blades as they call it with the Oars banging together.  It’s really quite dangerous. Whichever team gets into the lead and into the currents generally goes onto to win it. A rowing boat is quite a shallow thing and there have been sinking’s in the past. When that happens its generally considered that the race is over for that year as you don’t win by swimming it. Don’t worry, a flotilla of support boats is following them.