The race came about because two friends from Harrow School, Charles Wordsworth (nephew of the poet William Wordsworth), of Christ Church College, Oxford, and Charles Merrivale of St. John’s, Cambridge, met during the vacation in Cambridge, where Wordsworth’s father was master of Trinity.
Wordsworth went rowing on the Cam, and the two school fellows decided to set up a challenge. On February 10 1829 a meeting of CUBC requested Mr Snow of St John’s to write immediately to Mr Staniforth of Christ Church stating ‘that the University of Cambridge hereby challenge the University of Oxford to row a match at or near London, each in an eight-oared boat during the ensuing Easter vacation.’
Staniforth and Snow had been schoolfellows and boating comrades at Eton.
Consequently some of the arrangements changed so the first race eventually took place on 10 June 1829 at Henley on Thames.
Oxford won this first race easily, their winning boat can still be seen in the River & Rowing Museum in Henley.
For the next 25 years contests only happened on an irregular basis, moving to London for the second race in 1836.