the boat race

Photo: The Boat Race

The Boat Race

Congratulations to Cambridge University who for the second year in a row completed a clean sweep across all four races at the Boat Race, the Light Blues men’s boat achieving back-to-back victories for the first time since 1999.  We’ll be back here with a preview of the 2020 race.  In the meantime visit our Events! page now for news of all the best spectator action coming up in London. 

Oxford v Cambridge, eight rival crews and 250,000 spectators lining the banks of the River Thames.  The stage is set for the 165th edition of the Boat Race with racing underway shortly before 2.15pm in the shadow of Putney Bridge.

An iconic date on the UK sporting calendar the Boat Race is an annual contest between rowing crews from Oxford and Cambridge Universities on the ‘Championship Course’ (see left).  4 miles, 374 yards or 6.8 km long the course starts downstream of Putney Bridge before passing under Hammersmith Bridge and Barnes Bridge before finishing just before Chiswick Bridge.

boat raceThe first Men’s Boat Race took place in 1829 in Henley on Thames moving to London after 1836.  The first Women’s Boat Race took place in 1927 and moved to the Championship Course in 2015.  The teams compete in eight-oared rowing boats, each steered by a cox who sits in the stern or back of the boat.  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.

Last year Cambridge completed a clean sweep with the men’s and women’s boats winning by 3 and 7 lengths respectively while their reserves also triumphed against the Oxford crews.  The Dark Blue crews of Oxford will be itching for revenge and to spice things up further in the Men’s Boat Race this year two-time Olympic champion James Cracknell has a seat in the Cambridge boat making history as the event’s oldest ever rower.

Start time and finish:  The Women’s Boat Race starts at 2.13pm at Putney Bridge finishing shortly after 2.20pm.  The Men’s Boat Race starts at 3.10pm finishing shortly after 3.25pm.  In between times the Women’s Reserve Race (Osiris v Blondie) is underway at 2.30pm while Isis v Goldie in the Men’s Reserve Boat Race is a 2.45pm start.

Spectating is free on the route.

Best viewing spots: Putney Bridge will be buzzing at the start as the crews gather for the start with the bridge itself and nearby banks of the River Thames an ideal place to take in the build-up and start of the race.  En route Hammersmith Bridge is a favourite vantage point with huge sweep of the river to view and the race reaching a critical stage as the Surrey bend comes into play – 80% of crews ahead at Hammersmith Bridge go on to win. The race finishes just before Chiswick Bridge marked by the University Boat Race Stone adjacent to The Ship pub in Mortlake.  There are also two Fan Parks – one at Bishop’s Park (in Fulham close to the start line) and Wainwright Fan Park (at Furnivall Gardens in Hammersmith) – open from 12 noon see the Boat Race website for details and other vantage points.

Travel: Once you’ve decided where to watch the race check out this guide to the best travel links to get there.

Spotting the crews: Both Cambridge crews (CUBC/CUWBC) wear light blue, whilst Oxford crews (OUBC / OUWBC) wear dark blue.  All four Clubs train and select the rowers and cox for their university’s crew who are all students.  The four crews are known as the Blue Boats after the award their universities give them for competing in the Race.  Both universities have reserve crews: the men’s reserve boats are called Isis (Oxford) and Goldie (Cambridge) and the women’s reserve boats are called Osiris (Oxford) and Blondie (Cambridge).