The History of the Oxford & Cambridge Boat Race on the Thames

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For nearly 200 years, the Boat Race on the Thames between Oxford and Cambridge universities has been a significant attraction. Here is a brief history.

When and how it started

The Boat race dates back to 1829 when two friends from Harrow School decided to challenge each other in a boat race. One of the friends went to Cambridge, while the other went to Oxford University. Since 1856, the race has been held annually between the two universities, except during World War I and II. The loser usually asks for a rematch every year. The fastest winning time is held by Cambridge University, in 1998 at 16 minutes 19 seconds.

To choose which side on the river to row, an 1829 gold coin is tossed as a commemoration of the origins of the race. There are separate races for men, women and reserve crews. While it mainly takes place on the Thames, alternative locations have been used, such as the 2021 edition, which took place at River Great Ouse. In the Men’s event, Cambridge has won 85 times to Oxford’s 80, while Cambridge has won the women’s event 45 times to Oxford’s 30. A record crowd of over 270,000 watched the event in 2009. If you would also like to be a spectator, you can find affordable hotels for boat race near the River Thames.

One of the greatest sporting moments in history

One of the most memorable Boat Race was in 1978 when water submerged Cambridge’s boat, sinking it and thus giving Oxford the luxury of passing them and winning the race. The official starting and ending positions are marked with stones bearing letters UBR (University Boat racing).


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