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The Boat Race

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Crews at the finish of the 2002 Boat Race, Cambridge at the left.

The Boat Race is an annual rowing race between the Oxford University Boat Club and the Cambridge University Boat Club, rowed between competing eights on the River Thames in London, England. It is also known as the University Boat Race and the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, from 2010–2012 for sponsorship reasons as the Xchanging Boat Race, and from 2013 as the BNY Mellon Boat Race. It usually takes place on the last Saturday of March or the first Saturday of April.

The first race was in 1829 and the event has been held annually since 1856, except during World War I and World War II. The course covers a 4.2-mile (6.8 km) stretch of the Thames in West London, from Putney to Mortlake. Members of both teams are traditionally known as blues and each boat as a " Blue Boat", with Cambridge in light blue and Oxford dark blue. As of 2012 Cambridge have won the race 81 times and Oxford 76 times, with one dead heat.

The race is a well-established and popular fixture in the British sporting calendar. In 2010 an estimated quarter of a million people watched the race live from the banks of the river and millions on television.



The tradition was started in 1829 by Charles Merivale, a student at St John's College, Cambridge, and his Old Harrovian schoolfriend Charles Wordsworth who was studying at Christ Church, Oxford. Cambridge challenged Oxford to a race at Henley-on-Thames but went on to lose easily. As the Oxford Strokeman, Staniforth, and four of his crew were from Christ Church, then Head of the River, the decision was – eventually – taken to race in the Dark Blue of that college, which still pertains. There is dispute as to the exact source of the colours chosen by Cambridge. The second race occurred in 1836, with the venue moved to be a course from Westminster to Putney. Over the next couple of years, there was disagreement over where the race should be held, with Oxford preferring Henley and Cambridge preferring London. Cambridge therefore raced Leander Club in 1837 and 1838. Following the official formation of the Oxford University Boat Club in 1839, racing between the two universities resumed on the Tideway and the tradition continues to the present day, with the loser challenging the winner to a re-match annually.

The race is governed by a Joint Understanding between Oxford and Cambridge University Boat Clubs.

1877 dead heat

The race in 1877 was declared a dead heat. Legend in Oxford has it that the judge, "Honest John" Phelps, was asleep under a bush when the race finished, leading him to announce the result as a "dead heat to Oxford by four feet". This is not borne out, however, by contemporary reports.

Oxford, partially disabled, were making effort after effort to hold their rapidly waning lead, while Cambridge, who, curiously enough, had settled together again, and were rowing almost as one man, were putting on a magnificent spurt at 40 strokes to the minute, with a view of catching their opponents before reaching the winning-post. Thus struggling over the remaining portion of the course, the two eights raced passed the flag alongside one another, and the gun fired amid a scene of excitement rarely equalled and never exceeded. Cheers for one crew were succeeded by counter-cheers for the other, and it was impossible to tell what the result was until the Press boat backed down to the Judge and inquired the issue. John Phelps, the waterman, who officiated, replied that the noses of the boats passed the post strictly level, and that the result was a dead heat.
The Times

Stanley Muttlebury

Cambridge produced one of the legends of the Boat Race and of rowing worldwide, Stanley Muttlebury ("Muttle"), whose crew won the race in the first four of the five years he was a member, 1886–1890. Contemporaries writing to The Times to add to his 1933 obituary called attention to his extraordinary physical prowess and natural aptitude for rowing, traits accompanied by mildness, good manners, and natural kindness. R.P.P. Rowe wrote:

Muttlebury had a natural aptitude which amounted to a genius for rowing, and, as he was not only massively large and full of courage but herculean in muscular strength, it was inevitable that he should be an outstanding exponent of oarsmanship. Added to this, he came to his prime when rowing was in a transitional stage, when the old methods of the straight back and the body catch suited to the fixed seat and the short slide, had necessarily to be superseded by methods required by the long-slide. I consider that long-slide rowing sprang suddenly to perfection in Muttlebury, that on him this new (or partially new) art was built...

1959 Oxford mutiny

Oxford in Autumn 1958 had a large and talented squad. It included eleven returning Blues plus Yale oarsmen Reed Rubin and Charlie Grimes, a gold medallist at the 1956 Olympics. Ronnie Howard was elected OUBC President by the College Captains, beating Rubin. In 1958, Howard had rowed in the Isis crew coached by H.R.A. "Jumbo" Edwards, which had frequently beaten the Blue Boat in training.

Howard's first act was to appoint Edwards as coach. Edwards was a coach with a strong record, but he also imposed strict standards of obedience, behaviour and dress on the triallists which many of them found childish. As an example, Grimes withdrew from the squad after Edwards insisted he remove his "locomotive driver's hat" in training.

With selection for the crew highly competitive, the squad split along the lines of the presidential election. A group of dissidents called a press conference, announcing that they wanted to form a separate crew, led by Rubin and with a different coach. They then wished to race off with Howard's crew to decide who would face Cambridge.

Faced with this challenge, Ronnie Howard returned to the College Captains and asked for a vote of confidence in his selected crew and the decision not to race off with the Rubin crew. He won the vote decisively and the Cambridge president also declared that his crew would only race the Howard eight.

Three of the dissidents returned and Oxford went on to win by six lengths.

1987 Oxford mutiny

In 1987, another disagreement arose amongst the Oxford team. A number of top class American oarsmen refused to row when a fellow American was dropped in preference for the Scottish President, Donald Macdonald. They became embroiled in a conflict with Macdonald and with coach Dan Topolski over his training and selection methods. This eventually led most of the Americans to protest what they perceived to be the president's abuse of power, by withdrawing six weeks before the race was due to start.

To the surprise of many, Oxford, with a crew partially composed of oarsmen from the reserve team, went on to win the race. One aspect of the race was Topolski's tactic, communicated to the cox while the crews were on the start, for Oxford to take shelter from the rough water in the middle of the river at the start of the race, ignoring conventional wisdom that centre stream is fastest even if rowing conditions are poor.

A further surprise was that the captains of the Oxford college boat clubs, who had voted in support of Macdonald and Topolski and precipitated the Americans' withdrawal during the mutiny, voted one of those Americans, Chris Penny, as OUBC president for 1988, a break with the tradition that the president is a returning Blue (the other candidate being Tom Cadoux-Hudson, who was a British member of the 1987 winning crew).

Topolski wrote a book entitled True Blue: The Oxford Boat Race Mutiny on the incident. A movie based on the book, True Blue, was released in 1996. Topolski's account was seen by some as one-sided, and Ali Gill, who had been a member of the university women's Boat Club at the time of the mutiny, wrote a book The Yanks at Oxford to present the other side of the story.

Reported facts of the "mutiny" still differ greatly depending on the source, and with the historians having been personally involved in the events or the small community in which they occurred, a definitive, unbiased version has never been agreed upon. Captain Donald Macdonald and the Americans long refused to contribute to any debate on the event, including a 2007 BBC radio programme to mark the 20th anniversary. However, in 2012 after 25 years Macdonald gave his own account of the dispute in a newspaper interview.


In the 1912 race both crews sank, and the race was re-run. Cambridge also sank in 1859 and 1978, while Oxford did so in 1925, and again in 1951, when the race was then re-run on the following Monday. In 1984 the Cambridge boat sank after colliding with a barge before the start of the race, which was then rescheduled for the next day.

Cambridge's sinking in 1978 was named in 79th place on Channel 4's list of the 100 Greatest Sporting Moments.

Notable races since 2000

2003: Approaching Barnes Bridge – Oxford (nearer the camera) ultimately won by just one foot (30 cm)

Recent years have seen especially dramatic races. In 2001 the race was halted by umpire Rupert Obholzer just over a minute after the start, following repeated warnings to both crews to move apart, and then a clash of blades. The blade of Cambridge bowman Colin Swainson dislodged from his hand and in consequence the umpire immediately stopped the race. Despite Oxford having a lead when the race was stopped, the boats were restarted level with each other; this decision was highly contentious, especially when Cambridge went on to win after the restart.

In 2002 the favoured Cambridge crew led with only a few hundred metres to go, when a Cambridge oarsman ( Sebastian Mayer, who was later part of the winning 2004 Cambridge crew) collapsed from exhaustion and Oxford rowed through to win by three-quarters of a length. They did so on the outside of the last river bend, a feat last accomplished in 1952.

In 2003 Cambridge were substantially heavier and appeared to be the favourites. Two days prior to the race, however, the Cambridge crew suffered a collision on the river in which oarsman Wayne Pommen was injured. With a replacement (Ben Smith) in Pommen's seat, Cambridge went on to lose by a record slim margin of one foot. In that year, there were two sets of brothers rowing: 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. Cambridge gained revenge in 2004 in a race marred by dramatic clashes of oars in the early stages, and the unseating of Oxford's bowman.

The 2006 race was won by Oxford. Cambridge had started as strong favourites but, despite rough rain, made a tactical decision not to use a pump to remove excess water in the boat. Oxford did use a pump and overtook Cambridge to win. Cambridge had in fact introduced pumps as early as 1987 (the year of the Oxford mutiny, and a day of rough conditions).

2010: Cambridge (left) kept up with Oxford (Surrey station) and overtook them in the final mile

In 2007 Cambridge were again strong favourites based on the team members' individual successes, and 9 lb heavier per man on average. The Cambridge crew had five returning blues compared to Oxford's one. Furthermore, the international achievement of Cambridge's rowers far exceeded that of Oxford's: the World Champion stern pair of Germans Thorsten Engelmann – the heaviest ever boat race oarsman at 110.8 kilograms (244 lb) – and Sebastian Schulte; Olympic Gold medallist Kieran West MBE and GB medal winner Tom James. Although Oxford rowed strongly at the beginning, the light blues showed their class by holding Oxford while they had the advantage, and pushing on with tidier rowing from Chiswick steps. Despite their weight and technical superiority, Cambridge won by only a length and a quarter in a time of 17 minutes and 49 seconds.

In 2012 after almost three quarters of the course was completed, the race was halted for over 30 minutes when a man, who had got into the water from Chiswick Eyot, deliberately swam between the boats near Chiswick Pier. Once spotted by assistant umpire Sir Matthew Pinsent, both boats were required to stop for safety reasons. The swimmer, Trenton Oldfield, was later convicted of causing a public nuisance and jailed for six months. The umpire, John Garrett, made the decision to restart the race from the eastern end of Chiswick Eyot. Shortly after the restart the boats clashed and the oar of Oxford crewman Hanno Wienhausen was broken. Garrett judged the clash as Oxford's fault and allowed the race to continue. Cambridge quickly took the lead and went on to win the race. The Oxford crew entered a final appeal to the umpire which was quickly rejected and Cambridge were confirmed as official winners by 4 1/4 lengths. It was the first time since 1849 that a crew had won the boat race without an official recorded winning time. After the end of the race Oxford's bow man, Dr. Alex Woods – a medical student at Pembroke College – received emergency treatment after collapsing in the boat from exhaustion. Because of the circumstances, the post-race celebrations by the winning Cambridge crew were unusually muted and the planned award ceremony was cancelled.


Boat Race course ("Middlesex" and "Surrey" denote sides of the Thames Tideway corresponding to the traditional English counties)

The course is 4 miles and 374 yards (6.779 km) from Putney to Mortlake, passing Hammersmith and Barnes; it is sometimes referred to as the Championship Course, and follows an S shape, east to west. The start and finish are marked by the University Boat Race Stones on the south bank. The clubs' presidents toss a coin (the 1829 sovereign) before the race for the right to choose which side of the river (station) they will row on: their decision is based on the day's weather conditions and how the various bends in the course might favour their crew's pace. The north station (' Middlesex') has the advantage of the first and last bends, and the south (' Surrey') station the longer middle bend.

Competing for the fastest current

During the race the coxes compete for the fastest current, which lies at the deepest part of the river, frequently leading to clashes of blades and warnings from the umpire. A crew that gets a lead of more than a boat's length can cut in front of their opponent, making it extremely difficult for the trailing crew to gain the lead. For this reason the tactics of the race are generally to go fast early on, and few races have a change of the lead after half-way (though this happened in 2003, 2007 and 2010).

The race is rowed upstream, but is timed to start on the incoming flood tide so that the crews are rowing with the fastest possible current. If a strong wind is blowing from the west it will be against the tide in places along the course, causing the water to become very rough. The conditions are sometimes such that an international regatta would be cancelled, but the Boat Race has a tradition of proceeding even in potential sinking conditions (see Sinkings above).

During the race the crews pass various traditional landmarks, visible from the river:

Landmark Coordinates Comments
Westminster School Boat Club early morning.jpg
Exterior KCS Boat House.jpg
Oxford boats from Westminster School Boat Club (left), and Cambridge from King's College School Boat Club (right). Both clubs are near the Start, just downstream of the Black Buoy. The crews warm up by rowing downstream below Putney Bridge before taking their places at the start.
The Start by Putney Bridge
51.467319°N 0.213756°W / 51.467319; -0.213756 (Boat Race start)
Boat Race Start stone.jpg
Cambridge VIII at Stakeboat - 2009 Boat Race.jpg
The race starts from two stake boats moored so that the competitors' bows are in line with the University Stone on the south bank. The winner of the toss has the choice of station. The Surrey station won 10 out of the 15 races 1994–2008 – though this is not statistically significant.
Start - 2009 Boat Race.jpg
Start section (empty) - 2009 Boat Race.jpg
Coxes raise their arms while their VIIIs are getting into position. When both crews are ready the Umpire starts the race by waving a red flag. In the straight section after the start the Middlesex crew tries to hold the fastest water on the centre line of the river.
The Black Buoy
51.471211°N 0.221132°W / 51.471211; -0.221132 (The Black Buoy)
Boat Race Black Buoy.jpg
Roughly marks the end of the Putney Boat Houses. The Black Buoy has been painted yellow to avoid collisions.
Fulham Football Club
51.474895°N 0.221655°W / 51.474895; -0.221655 (Fulham Football Club)
Boat Race Craven Cottage.jpg
'Craven Cottage': crews stay wide (preferring the Surrey bank) round the bend as the area in front of the football ground (known as 'the Fulham flats') is shallow, with slack water.
The Mile Post
51.47852°N 0.226987°W / 51.47852; -0.226987 (The Mile Post)
Boat Race 1st Milestone and bust.jpg
The 'post' is in fact a stone monument to rowing coach Steve Fairbairn. Exactly a mile from the Boat Race start, it is a traditional timing point. The Middlesex bank water continues to be shallow and slack all the way to Hammersmith Bridge.
The Crabtree
51.482041°N 0.223482°W / 51.482041; -0.223482 (The Crabtree)
Boat Race Crabtree Reach.jpg
This section is called the "Crabtree Reach" after the Crabtree Tavern pub on the Middlesex bank (just to the right of the camera).
Harrods Furniture Depository
51.484633°N 0.227956°W / 51.484633; -0.227956 (Harrods' Furniture Repository)
Boat Race Harrod's Depositary.jpg
Previously the warehouse for the famous shop, now apartments. For the next 8–9 minutes the bend will be in Surrey's favour. The deep water channel now lies close to the Surrey bank.
Hammersmith Bridge
51.488129°N 0.230536°W / 51.488129; -0.230536 (Hammersmith Bridge)
Boat Race Hammersmith Bridge.jpg
Coxes aim for the second lamp-post from the left which marks the deepest part of the river and therefore the fastest line. 80%–85% of boats ahead at Hammersmith Bridge have won, though only 50% in the last 6 years. The turning point comes once the crews are under Hammersmith Bridge.
St Paul's School
51.488983°N 0.235855°W / 51.488983; -0.235855 (St Paul's School)
Boat Race St Paul's.jpg
1.80 miles have been rowed and the direction and perhaps the wind and water conditions are about to change. The next 3–4 minutes are Surrey's last major opportunity to kill the Middlesex crew off.
Chiswick Eyot ("eight")
51.487596°N 0.245814°W / 51.487596; -0.245814 (Chiswick Eyot)
Chiswick Eyot.jpg
An uninhabited river island. The river is straight again, and the deepest water is half-way between the Eyot and the Surrey bank.
Fuller's Brewery
51.487182°N 0.250411°W / 51.487182; -0.250411 (Chiswick Eyot)
Boat Race Fullers Brewery.jpg
Just visible to crews, behind the eyot. The most exposed section of the course with the risk of wind problems.
Chiswick Pier
51.482452°N 0.250937°W / 51.482452; -0.250937 (Chiswick Pier)
Boat Race Chiswick Pier.jpg
2.87 miles have been rowed. If there are wind problems the inside of the Middlesex bend may offer calmer water.
The Crossing
51.47879°N 0.250583°W / 51.47879; -0.250583 (The Crossing) Marks the end of the long Surrey bend. The deep water channel is in the centre of the river.
The Bandstand
51.476572°N 0.252149°W / 51.476572; -0.252149 (The Bandstand)
Boat Race Bandstand.jpg
The deep water channel lies close to the Middlesex bank at this point, and water near the Surrey bank is shallow.
Barnes Railway Bridge
51.472736°N 0.253758°W / 51.472736; -0.253758 (Barnes Railway Bridge)
Boat Race 2011 Barnes Railway Bridge centre span.jpg
Crews must pass through the centre arch. 95% of boats leading here have won. Only one boat has won since 1945 when trailing at Barnes Bridge: Oxford came from behind this late in 2002. The Barnes Bridge corner by Emanuel School Boat House is very tight: if both crews are level this is a real test for the coxes.
Stag Brewery
51.470474°N 0.266376°W / 51.470474; -0.266376 (Stag Brewery)
Boat Race Mortlake Brewery.jpg
3.94 miles have been rowed. Previously a Watneys brewery, now producing Budweiser beer.
The Finish by Chiswick Bridge
51.472861°N 0.268151°W / 51.472861; -0.268151 (The Boat Race Finish)
Boat Race Finish posts.jpg
Boat Race Finish post 800x533.jpg
The finish, just before Chiswick Bridge is marked by a stone on the south bank and a post on the north bank.

At the conclusion of the race, the boats come ashore on the paved area in front of the boathouse at Quintin Hogg Memorial Sports Ground, on the Middlesex shore, where shortly after the race the trophy is presented to the winning team. It is traditional for the winning side to throw their Cox in the Thames to celebrate their achievement. In the arms of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, which covers much of the course, two griffin supporters hold oars, one light blue, one dark, in reference to the Boat Race. These colours are highly unusual in English heraldry.

Previous courses

The course for the main part of the race's history has been from Putney to Mortlake, but there have been three other courses:

  • 1829 – At Henley-on-Thames
  • 1839 to 1842 – Westminster to Putney
  • 1846, 1856, 1862, 1863 – Mortlake to Putney

In addition, there were four unofficial boat races held during World War II away from London. As none of those competing were awarded blues, these races are not included in the official list:

  • 1940, 1945 – At Henley-on-Thames
  • 1943 – Sandford-on-Thames
  • 1944 – River Great Ouse, Ely, Littleport to Queen Adelaide


The race is for heavyweight eights (i.e., for eight rowers with a cox steering, and no restrictions on weight). Female coxes are permitted, the first to appear in the Boat Race being Sue Brown for Oxford in 1981. In fact female rowers would be permitted in the men's boat race, though the reverse is not true.

Although the contest is strictly between amateurs and the competitors must be students of the university for whom they race, the training schedules each team undertakes are very gruelling. Typically each team trains for six days a week for six months before the event.

Such is the competitive spirit between the universities it is common for Olympic standard rowers to compete, notably including four times Olympic gold medallist Matthew Pinsent who rowed for Oxford in 1990, 1991, and 1993. Olympic Gold medallists from 2000 – Tim Foster (Oxford 1997), Luka Grubor (Oxford 1997), Andrew Lindsay (Oxford 1997, 1998, 1999) and Kieran West (Cambridge 1999, 2001, 2006, 2007) – and 2004 – Ed Coode (Oxford 1998) have also raced for their university. Other famous participants in the race include Andrew Irvine (Oxford 1922, 1923), Lord Snowdon (Cambridge 1950), Colin Moynihan (Oxford 1977), and Hugh Laurie (Cambridge 1980).

Academic status

There are no sporting scholarships at Oxford or Cambridge, so in theory every student must obtain a place at their university on their academic merits, but there have been unproven accusations that these students are admitted to the universities for their rowing skill without meeting the normal academic standards. Participants in the boat race are indeed academically capable: the 2005 Cambridge crew, for example, contained four PhD students, including a fully qualified medical doctor and a veterinarian.

From 1978 to 1983 the race was won every year by Oxford crews that included Boris Rankov, who was then a graduate student at Oxford and recognised as a powerhouse of the crews. Although Rankov was a bona fide student (and is now a professor at the University of London), this led to the establishment of the informal "Rankov Rule", to which the teams have adhered ever since, that no rower may compete in the boat race more than four times as an undergraduate, and four times as a graduate.

In order to protect the status of the race as a competition between genuine students, the Boat Race organising committee in July 2007 refused to award a blue to 2006 and 2007 Cambridge oarsman Thorsten Engelmann, as he did not complete his academic course and instead returned to the German national rowing team to prepare for the Beijing Olympics. This has caused a debate about a change of rules, and one suggestion appears to be that only students that are enrolled in courses lasting at least two years should be eligible to race.

Standard of the crews

The question whether the Boat Race crews are up to the standard of international crews is difficult to judge, since the Boat Race crews train for a long-distance race early in the season, so their training schedule is quite different from crews training for international regattas over 2000 metres that take place later in the year.

According to British Olympic gold medallist Martin Cross, Boat Race crews of the early 1980s were viewed as "a bit of a joke" by some international–level rowers of the time. However, their standard has improved substantially since then. Current Boat Race crews do race against selected club and international crews in the build-up to the race, and are competitive against them, but again these matches are over various non-standard distances, against crews that might not have been together as long as the Oxbridge crews.

In 2005 a strong Oxford crew, similar to that which had raced in the Boat Race, entered the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta losing to the winning German international crew in the first round by a third of a length. The same year, Cambridge won the Ladies Challenge plate at the HRR.

In 2007 Cambridge were entered in the London Head of the River Race where they should have been measured directly against the best crews in Britain and beyond. However, the event was called off after several crews were sunk or swamped in rough conditions. Cambridge were fastest of the few crews who did manage to complete the course.


The Boat Race has been sponsored since 1976, with the money spent mainly on equipment and travel during the training period. The sponsors do not have their logos on the boats, but do have their logo on kit during the race. They also provide branded training gear and have some naming rights. Boat Race sponsors have included Ladbrokes, Beefeater Gin, Aberdeen Asset Management, and the business process outsourcing company Xchanging, who will sponsor the race until 2012. Controversially, in the renewal of the deal with Xchanging, the crews agreed to wear the sponsor's logo on their kit during the race itself, in exchange for increased funding. Prior to this, all sponsorship marks had been scrupulously discarded on boating for the competition, in line with the race's amateur and ‘Corinthian’ spirit. Xchanging also became title sponsor in November 2009 so, since the 156th Race, the event is known as The Xchanging Boat Race.

Other boat races involving Oxford and Cambridge

Although the heavyweight men's eights are the best-known event, the two universities compete in other rowing boat races. The main boat race is preceded by a race between the two reserve crews. The Oxford reserve crew is called Isis (after the Isis, a section of the River Thames which passes through Oxford), and the Cambridge reserve crew is called Goldie (the name comes from rower and Boat Club president John Goldie, 1849–1896, after whom the Goldie Boathouse is named).

The women's eights, women's reserve eights, men's lightweight eights and women's lightweight eights race in the Henley Boat Races, usually a week before the men's heavyweight races. There is also a 'veterans' boat race, usually held on a weekday before the main Boat Race, on the Thames between Putney and Hammersmith. The women's boat race will be moving to the Tideway in 2015.


Training for the boat race officially begins in September, before the start of term. The first public tests are in November at the British Indoor Rowing Championships where each university sends around 20 rowers to compete. Everyone races 2 km on an indoor rower with the club presidents using adjacent machines. Both universities also send crews to the Head of the River Fours race in London which is raced over the reverse Boat Race course, that is to say the Championship course from Mortlake to Putney.

In December, the coaches put out Trial Eights where two crews from the same university race each other over the full boat race course. These crews are given names such as Kara and Whakamanawa ( Māori words for strength and honour, Cambridge 2004) or Cowboys and Indians (Oxford 2004). Other trials boat names have included such pairings as Guns and Roses.

Over the Christmas period the squads go on training camps abroad, where final places for the blue boats are decided. After the final blue boat crews have been decided they race against the top crews from the UK and abroad (e.g. in recent years they have raced Leander, Molesey, the German international crew, and a composite crew of Olympic scullers). These races are only over part of the course (from Putney to Chiswick Eyot).

In case of injury or illness, each university has ten extra rowers, eight in the reserve boats Isis and Goldie, and two as the spare pair. Isis and Goldie race 30 mins before the Blue Boat event over the same course. As for the spare pair, in the week before the main event they race each other from the mile post to university stone (i.e. from a point one mile into the Championship Course back to the Boat Race start). In the final week, there is also an official weigh in and the average crew weights announced. The perceived slight advantage of being the heavier crew leads to the practice of drinking large volumes of water directly before the weigh in order to artificially increase weight for a short period of time.

Popular culture

Boat race became such a popular phrase that it was incorporated into Cockney rhyming slang, for "face".

In the stories of P. G. Wodehouse, Boat Race Night is often alluded to as a time of riotous celebration, which frequently sees the participants in trouble with the authorities. Bertie Wooster mentions several times that he was fined ten pounds for stealing a policeman's helmet on Boat Race Night. The beginning of first episode of the Jeeves and Wooster television series shows his court appearance on this occasion.

Results and statistics

The detailed nature of the record-keeping over the event's history has many record statistics being carefully monitored. A selection of the more frequently cited statistics includes:

  • Number of wins: Cambridge, 81; Oxford, 76 (1 dead heat)
  • Most consecutive victories: Cambridge, 13 (1924–36)
  • Course record: Cambridge, 1998 – 16 min 19 sec; average speed 24.9 kilometres per hour (15.5 mph)
  • Heaviest rower: Thorsten Engelmann, Cambridge 2007, 17 st 6 lb 4 oz (110.8 kg; 244 lb)
  • Lightest rower: Alfred Higgins, Oxford 1882, 9 st 6.5 lb (60.1 kg; 132.5 lb)
  • Heaviest crew: Oxford 2009, 15 st 9 lb 13 oz (99.7 kg) average
  • Tallest rower: Josh West, Cambridge 1999–2002, 6 ft 9.5 in (2.07 m)
  • Tallest crew: Cambridge 1999, 6 ft 6.3 in (1.98 m) average
  • Oldest rower: Mike Wherley, Oxford 2008, 36 yrs 14 days
  • Oldest cox: Andy Probert, Cambridge 1992, 38 yrs 86 days
  • Reserve wins: Cambridge (Goldie), 29; Oxford (Isis), 17

Full results by year

No. Date Winner Time Margin Oxford
1 01829-06-1010 June 1829
1830–1835 no race
Oxford 14:03 999Easily 1 0
2 01836-06-1717 June 1836
1837–1838 no race
Cambridge 36:00 20 lengths 1 1
3 01839-04-033 April 1839 Cambridge 31:00 35 lengths 1 2
4 01840-04-1515 April 1840 Cambridge 29:03 0.75¾ length 1 3
5 01841-04-1414 April 1841 Cambridge 32:03 22 lengths 1 4
6 01842-06-1111 June 1842
1843–1844 no race
Oxford 30:01 04.254½ lengths 2 4
7 01845-03-1515 March 1845 Cambridge 23:30 10 lengths 2 5
8 01846-04-033 April 1846
1847–1848 no race
Cambridge 21:05 03 lengths 2 6
9 01849-04-2929 April 1849 Cambridge 22:00 999Easily 2 7
10 01849-12-1515 December 1849
1850–1851 no race
Oxford foul ZZZCambridge
3 7
11 01852-04-033 April 1852
1853 no race
Oxford 21:36 09 lengths 4 7
12 01854-04-088 April 1854
1855 no race
Oxford 25:29 07 lengths 5 7
13 01856-03-1515 March 1856 Cambridge 25:45 0.25½ length 5 8
14 01857-04-044 April 1857 Oxford 22:05 11 lengths 6 8
15 01858-03-2727 March 1858 Cambridge 21:23 07.57½ lengths 6 9
16 01859-04-1515 April 1859 Oxford 24:04 99SCambridge
7 9
17 01860-03-3131 March 1860 Cambridge 26:05 01 length 7 10
18 01861-03-2323 March 1861 Oxford 23:03 16 lengths 8 10
19 01862-04-1212 April 1862 Oxford 24:34 10 lengths 9 10
20 01863-03-2828 March 1863 Oxford 23:06 15 lengths 10 10
21 01864-03-1919 March 1864 Oxford 21:04 09 lengths 11 10
22 01865-04-088 April 1865 Oxford 21:24 04 lengths 12 10
23 01866-03-2424 March 1866 Oxford 25:35 03 lengths 13 10
24 01867-04-1313 April 1867 Oxford 22:39 0.5½ length 14 10
25 01868-04-044 April 1868 Oxford 20:56 06 lengths 15 10
26 01869-03-1717 March 1869 Oxford 20:04 03 lengths 16 10
27 01870-04-066 April 1870 Cambridge 22:04 01.51½ lengths 16 11
28 01871-04-011 April 1871 Cambridge 23:01 01 length 16 12
29 01872-03-2323 March 1872 Cambridge 21:15 02 lengths 16 13
30 01873-03-2929 March 1873 Cambridge 19:35 03 lengths 16 14
31 01874-03-2828 March 1874 Cambridge 22:35 03.53½ lengths 16 15
32 01875-03-2020 March 1875 Oxford 22:02 10 lengths 17 15
33 01876-04-088 April 1876 Cambridge 20:02 999Easily 17 16
34 01877-03-2424 March 1877 Dead Heat 24:08 ...Dead Heat 17 16
35 01878-04-1313 April 1878 Oxford 22:15 10 lengths 18 16
36 01879-04-055 April 1879 Cambridge 21:18 03 lengths 18 17
37 01880-03-2222 March 1880 Oxford 21:23 03.753¾ lengths 19 17
38 01881-04-088 April 1881 Oxford 21:51 03 lengths 20 17
39 01882-04-011 April 1882 Oxford 20:12 07 lengths 21 17
40 01883-03-1515 March 1883 Oxford 21:18 03.53½ lengths 22 17
41 01884-04-077 April 1884 Cambridge 21:39 02.52½ lengths 22 18
42 01885-03-2828 March 1885 Oxford 21:36 02.52½ lengths 23 18
43 01886-04-033 April 1886 Cambridge 22:03 0.667⅔ length 23 19
44 01887-03-2626 March 1887 Cambridge 20:52 02.52½ lengths 23 20
45 01888-03-2424 March 1888 Cambridge 20:48 07 lengths 23 21
46 01889-03-3030 March 1889 Cambridge 20:14 03 lengths 23 22
47 01890-03-2626 March 1890 Oxford 22:03 01 length 24 22
48 01891-03-2121 March 1891 Oxford 21:48 0.50½ length 25 22
49 01892-04-099 April 1892 Oxford 19:01 02.252¼ lengths 26 22
50 01893-03-2222 March 1893 Oxford 18:45 01.251¼ lengths 27 22
51 01894-03-1717 March 1894 Oxford 21:39 03.53½ lengths 28 22
52 01895-03-3030 March 1895 Oxford 20:05 02.252¼ lengths 29 22
53 01896-03-2828 March 1896 Oxford 20:01 0.40½ length 30 22
54 01897-04-033 April 1897 Oxford 19:12 02.52½ lengths 31 22
55 01898-03-2626 March 1898 Oxford 22:15 999Easily 32 22
56 01899-03-2525 March 1899 Cambridge 21:04 03.253¼ lengths 32 23
57 01900-03-3131 March 1900 Cambridge 18:45 20 lengths 32 24
58 01901-03-3030 March 1901 Oxford 22:31 0.667⅔ length 33 24
59 01902-03-2222 March 1902 Cambridge 19:09 05 lengths 33 25
60 01903-04-011 April 1903 Cambridge 19:33 06 lengths 33 26
61 01904-03-2626 March 1904 Cambridge 21:37 04.54½ lengths 33 27
62 01905-04-011 April 1905 Oxford 20:35 03 lengths 34 27
63 01906-04-077 April 1906 Cambridge 19:25 03.53½ lengths 34 28
64 01907-03-1616 March 1907 Cambridge 20:26 04.54½ lengths 34 29
65 01908-04-044 April 1908 Cambridge 19:02 02.52½ lengths 34 30
66 01909-04-033 April 1909 Oxford 19:05 03.53½ lengths 35 30
67 01910-03-2323 March 1910 Oxford 20:14 03.53½ lengths 36 30
68 01911-04-011 April 1911 Oxford 18:29 02.752¾ lengths 37 30
69 01912-04-011 April 1912 Oxford 22:05 06 lengths 38 30
70 01913-03-1313 March 1913 Oxford 20:53 0.75¾ length 39 30
71 01914-03-2828 March 1914
1915–1919 no race
Cambridge 20:23 04.54½ lengths 39 31
72 01920-03-2828 March 1920 Cambridge 21:11 04 lengths 39 32
73 01921-03-3030 March 1921 Cambridge 19:45 01 length 39 33
74 01922-04-011 April 1922 Cambridge 19:27 04.54½ lengths 39 34
75 01923-03-2424 March 1923 Oxford 20:54 0.75¾ length 40 34
76 01924-04-055 April 1924 Cambridge 18:41 04.54½ lengths 40 35
77 01925-03-2828 March 1925 Cambridge 21:05 99SOxford
40 36
78 01926-03-2727 March 1926 Cambridge 19:29 05 lengths 40 37
79 01927-04-022 April 1927 Cambridge 20:14 03 lengths 40 38
80 01928-03-3131 March 1928 Cambridge 20:25 10 lengths 40 39
81 01929-03-2323 March 1929 Cambridge 19:24 07 lengths 40 40
82 01930-04-1212 April 1930 Cambridge 19:09 03 lengths 40 41
83 01931-03-2121 March 1931 Cambridge 19:26 02.52½ lengths 40 42
84 01932-03-1919 March 1932 Cambridge 19:11 05 lengths 40 43
85 01933-04-011 April 1933 Cambridge 20:57 02.252¼ lengths 40 44
86 01934-03-1717 March 1934 Cambridge 18:03 04.254¼ lengths 40 45
87 01935-04-066 April 1935 Cambridge 19:48 04.54½ lengths 40 46
88 01936-04-044 April 1936 Cambridge 21:06 05 lengths 40 47
89 01937-03-2424 March 1937 Oxford 22:39 0.25¼ length 41 47
90 01938-04-022 April 1938 Oxford 20:03 02 lengths 42 47
91 01939-04-011 April 1939
1940–1945 no race
Cambridge 19:03 04 lengths 42 48
92 01946-03-3030 March 1946 Oxford 19:54 03 lengths 43 48
93 01947-03-2929 March 1947 Cambridge 23:01 10 lengths 43 49
94 01948-03-2727 March 1948 Cambridge 17:05 05 lengths 43 50
95 01949-03-2626 March 1949 Cambridge 18:57 0.25¼ length 43 51
96 01950-04-011 April 1950 Cambridge 20:15 03.53½ lengths 43 52
97 01951-03-2626 March 1951 Cambridge 20:05 12 lengths 43 53
98 01952-03-2929 March 1952 Oxford 20:23 0.06Canvas 44 53
99 01953-03-2828 March 1953 Cambridge 19:54 08 lengths 44 54
100 01954-04-033 April 1954 Oxford 20:23 04.54½ lengths 45 54
101 01955-03-2626 March 1955 Cambridge 19:01 16 lengths 45 55
102 01956-03-2424 March 1956 Cambridge 18:36 01.251¼ lengths 45 56
103 01957-03-3030 March 1957 Cambridge 19:01 02 lengths 45 57
104 01958-04-055 April 1958 Cambridge 18:15 03.53½ lengths 45 58
105 01959-03-2828 March 1959 Oxford 18:52 06 lengths 46 58
106 01960-04-022 April 1960 Oxford 18:59 01.251¼ lengths 47 58
107 01961-04-011 April 1961 Cambridge 19:22 04.254¼ lengths 47 59
108 01962-04-077 April 1962 Cambridge 19:46 05 lengths 47 60
109 01963-03-2323 March 1963 Oxford 20:47 05 lengths 48 60
110 01964-03-2828 March 1964 Cambridge 19:18 06.56½ lengths 48 61
111 01965-04-033 April 1965 Oxford 18:07 04 lengths 49 61 Isis
112 01966-03-2626 March 1966 Oxford 19:12 03.753¾ lengths 50 61 Isis
113 01967-03-2525 March 1967 Oxford 18:52 03.253¼ lengths 51 61 Goldie
114 01968-03-3030 March 1968 Cambridge 18:22 03.53½ lengths 51 62 Goldie
115 01969-04-055 April 1969 Cambridge 18:04 04 lengths 51 63 Goldie
116 01970-03-2828 March 1970 Cambridge 20:22 03.53½ lengths 51 64 Goldie
117 01971-03-2727 March 1971 Cambridge 17:58 10 lengths 51 65 Goldie
118 01972-04-011 April 1972 Cambridge 18:36 09½ lengths 51 66 Goldie
119 01973-03-077 March 1973 Cambridge 19:21 13 lengths 51 67 Goldie
120 01974-04-066 April 1974 Oxford 17:35 05.55½ lengths 52 67 Goldie
121 01975-03-2929 March 1975 Cambridge 19:27 03.753¾ lengths 52 68 Isis
122 01976-03-2020 March 1976 Oxford 16:58 06.56½ lengths 53 68 Isis
123 01977-03-1919 March 1977 Oxford 19:28 07 lengths 54 68 Goldie
124 01978-03-2525 March 1978 Oxford 18:58 99SCambridge
55 68 Goldie
125 01979-03-1717 March 1979 Oxford 20:33 03.53½ lengths 56 68 Goldie
126 01980-04-055 April 1980 Oxford 19:02 0.04Canvas 57 68 Isis
127 01981-04-044 April 1981 Oxford 18:11 08 lengths 58 68 Isis
128 01982-03-2727 March 1982 Oxford 18:21 03.253¼ lengths 59 68 Isis
129 01983-04-022 April 1983 Oxford 19:07 04.54½ lengths 60 68 Isis
130 01984-03-1818 March 1984 Oxford 16:45 03.753¾ lengths 61 68 Goldie
131 01985-04-066 April 1985 Oxford 17:11 04.754¾ lengths 62 68 Isis
132 01986-03-2929 March 1986 Cambridge 17:58 07 lengths 62 69 Isis
133 01987-03-2828 March 1987 Oxford 19:59 04 lengths 63 69 Goldie
134 01988-04-022 April 1988 Oxford 17:35 05.55½ lengths 64 69 Goldie
135 01989-03-2525 March 1989 Oxford 18:27 02.52½ lengths 65 69 Isis
136 01990-03-3131 March 1990 Oxford 17:22 02.252¼ lengths 66 69 Goldie
137 01991-03-3030 March 1991 Oxford 16:59 04.254¼ lengths 67 69 Goldie
138 01992-04-044 April 1992 Oxford 17:44 01.251¼ lengths 68 69 Goldie
139 01993-03-2727 March 1993 Cambridge 17:00 03.53½ lengths 68 70 Goldie
140 01994-03-2626 March 1994 Cambridge 18:09 06.56½ lengths 68 71 Goldie
141 01995-04-011 April 1995 Cambridge 18:04 04 lengths 68 72 Goldie
142 01996-04-066 April 1996 Cambridge 16:58 02.752¾ lengths 68 73 Goldie
143 01997-03-2929 March 1997 Cambridge 17:38 02 lengths 68 74 Goldie
144 01998-03-2828 March 1998 Cambridge 16:19 03 lengths 68 75 Isis
145 01999-04-033 April 1999 Cambridge 16:41 03.53½ lengths 68 76 Goldie
146 02000-03-2525 March 2000 Oxford 18:04 03 lengths 69 76 Isis
147 02001-03-2424 March 2001 Cambridge 19:59 02.52½ lengths 69 77 Goldie
148 02002-03-3030 March 2002 Oxford 16:54 0.75¾ length 70 77 Isis
149 02003-04-066 April 2003 Oxford 18:06 0.011 foot 71 77 Goldie
150 02004-03-2828 March 2004 Cambridge 18:47 06 lengths 71 78 Isis
151 02005-03-2727 March 2005 Oxford 16:42 02 lengths 72 78 Goldie
152 02006-04-022 April 2006 Oxford 18:26 05 lengths 73 78 Goldie
153 02007-04-077 April 2007 Cambridge 17:49 01.251¼ lengths 73 79 Goldie
154 02008-03-2929 March 2008 Oxford 20:53 06 lengths 74 79 Isis
155 02009-03-2929 March 2009 Oxford 17:00 03.53½ lengths 75 79 Isis
156 02010-04-033 April 2010 Cambridge 17:35 01.3331⅓ lengths 75 80 Goldie
157 02011-03-2626 March 2011 Oxford 17:32 04 lengths 76 80 Isis
158 02012-04-077 April 2012 Cambridge n/a 04.254¼ lengths 76 81 Isis

a. ^ No time was recorded as the race was interrupted and restarted.

Unofficial wartime races

No. Date Location Winner Time Margin
1 01940-03-022 March 1940 Henley-on-Thames Cambridge 9:28 5 lengths
2 01943-02-1313 February 1943 Sandford-on-Thames Oxford 4:49 ⅔ length
3 01944-02-2626 February 1944 River Great Ouse, Ely Oxford 8:06 ¾ length
4 01945-02-2424 February 1945 Henley-on-Thames Cambridge 8:17 2 lengths
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