Personalities

 
  • Multi-Olympic Gold Medalist Matthew Pinsent
    Multi-Olympic Gold Medalist Matthew Pinsent

    Sir Matthew Pinsent CBE is perhaps the most distinguished oarsman ever to compete in The Boat Race.

    He was in the Oxford Blue Boat in 1990, 91 & 93, winning twice but was losing President in 1993.

    In 1992 he missed out on a Blue to take time to win his first Olympic Gold with Steve Redgrave at the Barcelona Olympics.

    He went on to win 3 more golds, two with Blues; in 2000 with Oxford's Tim Foster and in 2004 with Oxford's Ed Coode.

    In 2011 Pinsent returned to the Boat Race appearing in and winning his first Veterans Race. He was the umpire for The 2013 BNY Mellon Boat Race.

    Sir Matthew with his gold Olympic medals
  • Actor & Comedian Hugh Laurie Cambridge 1980
    Actor & Comedian Hugh Laurie Cambridge 1980

    Hugh Laurie rowed in the Cambridge Blue Boat in 1980. His father Ran Laurie had stroked Cambridge to victory between 1934-36 and won a Gold at the 1948 London Olympics. 

    Laurie had been a GB Junior International while at Eton, however his Cambridge crew narrowly lost in an exciting race featuring clashes of blades and the collapse of the Oxford bow man.

    This was Laurie's only Boat Race before the lure of the 'footlights' led him into his distinguished career.

    Hugh Laurie training in the 1980 Cambridge crew
  • Lord (Colin) Moynihan Chairman of the British Olympic Association
    Lord (Colin) Moynihan Chairman of the British Olympic Association

    Colin Moynihan was a double blue coxing the victorious Oxford crew in the 1977 Boat Race and boxing against Cambridge in the Bantamweight division. He beat Benazir Bhutto to win the Presidency of the Oxford Union in 1976.

    In the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games he was cox for the GB men's VIII winning a silver medal.

    Moynihan became an MP in 1983 and was MInister for Sport between 1987-1990. He is an hereditary Peer but was elected to stay in the House of Lords in 2000 where he has been a Conservative spokesman on Sport and Foreign Affairs.

    In 2005 The 4th Baron Moynihan became Chairman of the British Olympic Association for the run-up to the London 2012 Olympic Games.

    Moynihan in 1977 shoveling hops at the Young's brewery in order to lose weight
  • Boris Rankov rowed in more Boat Races than any other athlete
    Boris Rankov rowed in more Boat Races than any other athlete

    Educated at Corpus Christi College, Oxford (MA 1980, DPhil 1987), Boris Rankov is best known for leading Oxford to victory six times between 1978 and 1983, three times in the 4 seat and three times in the 5 seat.

    This led to the establishment of the so-called Rankov Rule, which states that oarsmen will compete in the race no more than four times as an undergraduate and no more than four times as a graduate.

    Rankov has however, umpired the race in 2003, 2005 and 2009.

    He is currently a professor of Roman history at Royal Holloway, University of London. 

    Boris Rankov following one of his six victories
  • Sue Brown, the first woman to compete in the Boat Race
    Sue Brown, the first woman to compete in the Boat Race

    On April 4th 1981 Sue Brown became the first woman to participate in The Boat Race, as cox of the Oxford Blue Boat, a task she repeated in 1982, winning on both occassions.

    Since then both clubs have used female coxes to steer their crews. The first woman cox in the Cambridge Blue Boat was Henrietta Shaw in 1985.

    The first time both crews were coxed by women was 1989, the dark blues with Alison Norrish, the light blues with Leigh Weiss.

    Sue Brown Oxford cox 1981-82
  • Legendary Oxford coach Dan Topolski
    Legendary Oxford coach Dan Topolski

    Dan Topolski as an oarsman won the 1967 and lost the 1968 Boat Race, he was also a highly successful lightweight international.


    He is best known as the Oxford coach between 1973-1987. Of his fifteen Boat Races in charge, Oxford won twelve including an unbroken run of ten victories between 1976 and 1985.

    This run of success and its continuation after Topolski's departure brought Oxford to a point in 1992 where they had won sixteen of the last seventeen races and were within one victory of equalling Cambridge's overall total of wins.

    He departed in 1987, sparked by the infamous 'mutiny' and inspiring his book True Blue. He is currently Oxford's coxing advisor and provides analysis for the BBC on Boat Race day. 

    Oxford's Dan Toploski on the Tideway during his 15 year coaching tenure
  • Dan Snow author & TV historian
    Dan Snow author & TV historian

    Dan Snow won a bronze medal at the World Junior Championships prior to studying at Balliol, Oxford. He appeared 3 times in the Oxford Blue Boat between 1999-2001.

    He was the losing President in the controversial 2001 race where the umpire stopped the crews following a clash of blades.

    His father is TV journalist Peter Snow but Dan has carved out his own highly successful career in TV following his double first in Modern History. He is well known for his appearances on The One Show and for presenting numerous history programmes.

    He is the author of Death or Victory: the Battle of Quebec and the birth of Empire and has won a number of BAFTA and Sony Awards.

    TV historian, author and former Oxford President Dan Snow
  • The Winklevoss twins
    The Winklevoss twins

    Cameron & Tyler Winklevoss, identical American twin brothers rowed in the 2010 losing Oxford Blue Boat. They had rowed in the 2008 Olympic Games coming 6th in the coxless pair and had distinguished careers at Harvard.

    Their chief claim to fame however is as the disputed joint founders of the Facebook social network. Having founded a Harvard based network with the assistance of Mark Zuckerburg they saw Zuckerburg's Facebook take off.

    Litigation followed and it is reported that the Winklevoss brothers settled for upwards of $50 million. The tale of their part in the launch of Facebook plays a large part in the film The Social Network, where the twins are played by one actor.

    Cameron (L) & Tyler Winklevoss, made famous by the film The Social Network
  • Andrew (Sandy) Irvine, Mountaineer & Adventurer
    Andrew (Sandy) Irvine, Mountaineer & Adventurer

    Sandy Irvine was mountaineer George Mallory's summit partner on the ill-fated British Everest Expedition of 1924. It is thought likely that he and Mallory were the first men to reach the mountain's peak, but died during the descent. 

    An outstanding oarsman, he rowed for Merton College, Oxford and in the losing Dark Blue Boat of 1922 and the winning Boat in 1923.

    He was also a wild boy with a streak of fearlessness that exasperated his parents and delighted his friends. He had a passionate love affair with his best friend’s step mother, made the first crossing of the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen in 1923 and perhaps, just perhaps climbed to the top of the world 29 years before Sir Edmund Hillary.

    Irvine's story is told in the book Fearless on Everest by Julie Somers.

    Andrew (Sandy) Irvine. Image by permission of the Warden and Fellows of Merton College Oxford ©Merton College Oxford, this image may not be copied or downloaded