What is The Boat Race?

The Boat Race is probably the most famous rowing event in the world. The annual contest between students from Oxford and Cambridge Universities has captured the imagination of the British Public for nearly 200 years. The event attracts a global following as millions of people watch the race, captured by the intense rivalry of the two university boat clubs and the exciting and close racing.

The event is in fact made up of four races. The men’s and women’s Blue Boat races, these are the races seen on the television and are between the top crews or first boats from Oxford and Cambridge. The two other races that take place are for the 'Reserve Crews' or second boats from Oxford and Cambridge. These crews have different names, Oxford men’s reserve crew is called Isis, Cambridge men’s Goldie, Oxford women’s reserve crew is called Osiris and Cambridge women’s reserve crew is called Blondie.

The Clubs

Boat Race fans from around the world usually pick one team to support! Cambridge University Boat Club wears the light ‘Duck Egg’ blue, whilst the Oxford crews wear dark blue

The teams compete in eight-oared rowing boats, each steered by a cox who sits in the stern or back of the boat. The cox is the only crew member who faces in the direction they are moving. The rowers and coxes on the teams come from all backgrounds with different levels of rowing experience. The crews will be made up of Olympians, World Champions alongside those students who learned to row at Oxford and Cambridge.

All students on the teams are subject to the same entry requirements as any other students at the universities and to be eligible to row, all students must be studying on a full-time course. Competing for a place in one of the Boat Race crews demands a high level of organisation as the students balance demanding academic commitments alongside training..

The men’s and women’s top crews are known as the Blue Boats after the award their universities give them for competing in the Race. Both universities have reserve crews. For the men, Oxford's reserve boat is called Isis, Cambridge's is called Goldie. The women's reserve boats are called Osiris (Oxford) and Blondie (Cambridge).

The Championship Course

The Boat Race course, known as the Championship Course is 4 miles, 374 yards or 6.8 km long. It stretches between Putney and Mortlake on the River Thames in south west London.

The crews who win the coin toss before the Race chose which side (or station) they will race on. The stations are known as Middlesex and Surrey, with advantages and disadvantages for each side because of the bends in the river.

The Race starts downstream of Putney Bridge and passes under Hammersmith Bridge and Barnes Bridge before finishing just before Chiswick Bridge.

The record time over the course in The Men's Boat Race is 16 minutes 19 seconds, set by Cambridge in 1998 and for The Women's Boat Race is 18 minutes 33 seconds set by Cambridge in 2017.

> For more details about The Championship Course click here

The Women's Boat Race

The Women's Boat Race first took place in 1927 and it was at this stage, not a side-by-side race but a contest of time and style.

From 1935 the women’s races became a side by side contest, held alternately on the River Cam in Cambridge or The Isis in Oxford. The sports women of Oxford and Cambridge faced hostility from some of their male counterparts, who didn’t believe women should be allowed to row, let alone race!

In the 1977 The Women’s Boat Race moved to Henley-on-Thames where the event was well supported by both university communities.

In 2015 the Women’s Boat Race moved to the Championship Course and now takes place on the same day in the same location as the Men’s Boat Race.