Sunday, 29 March 2009

University Boat Race

Spring must be here in England finally as today is the 155th running of the University Boat Race, that quintessentially English sport where two teams get cold, wet and exhausted, [rowers have been known to lose seven pounds in the twenty minutes or so it runs] by racing against each other. Starting at Putney Bridge, to Hammersmith Bridge, Barnes Bridge, and Chiswick Bridge to the finsih at Mortlake, a route of four and a half miles.

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

The first was the result of a challenge issued to Oxford by Cambridge in 1829 and rowed on the Thames at Henley. Oxford wore dark blue jerseys, later to become the Oxford blue, and Cambridge donned pink sashes. Oxford were the first winners. The second race was staged in 1836 when Cambridge adopted their own light blue, and was rowed on a five and three-quarter mile stretch of the Thames between Westminster and Putney.

Today’s course was first used in 1845, stretches from Putney to Mortlake. The race is held in March or early April, after the captain of the previous year's losing team issues a formal challenge. The average time taken to complete the course is 20 minutes, but Cambridge holds the record for the fastest time of 16 minutes and 19 seconds, achieved in 1998. Oxford won in 2008, but by the slowest time on record of 20 mins 53 seconds.

Cambridge sank in 1859 and 1978, Oxford in 1925 and 1951, and both boats went down in 1912 when the race was started in a virtual gale. The most recent sinking occurred in 1984, when Cambridge sank after ramming a barge before they were even under starter's orders. The remains of the boat now have pride of place in a Cambridge public house, and have been signed by all crew members.

I won’t be there personally, it’s not worth going anywhere near the river today as it will be chaos, but my daughter and her university rowing team will be on Putney Bridge to watch the start after their annual ‘Boat Party’. She has put on her facebook page she is
'Looking forward to boat race shenanigans' Some traditions are rather nice to keep, even if I will be watching it on tv!

Photo courtesy ofhkfuey97 on Flikr
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1 comment:

N. Gemini Sasson said...

I would be one of those fools to stand around for hours, only to watch the boats come into view for sixty seconds and whiz on by. Bet the atmosphere is electric!