staying in or visiting Oxford when the Oxford-Cambridge
Boat Race is broadcast on the BBC, don’t expect
to see a soul on the streets.
There’s a real sense of pride amongst the Oxford
community as every year teams from the two imposing, historical
head-to-head to claim the River Thames bragging rights.
The rivalry, however, was born out of a friendship.
The race was the brainchild of two friends, Charles Merivale
and Charles Wordsworth, students at Cambridge and Oxford
It was in 1829 that the gauntlet was thrown down, with
Cambridge challenging their counterparts. And since then
the event has grown from strength to strength,
continually capturing the imagination of the British public.
The race held in 2004 was the 150th and attracted a staggering
UK television audience of 8.9 million people with an estimated worldwide audience of 500 million.
The race takes place on the tidal stretch of the Thames
called the Tideway, which runs from Teddington
Lock through central London and then out to the open sea.
The Championship Course runs between Putney and Mortlake.
Cambridge sank in 1859, then again just a mile from the
finish in 1978, while Oxford went under in both 1925 and
Cambridge haven’t won as many times as Oxford and
the closest race to date happened in 2003, when Oxford
won by just 12 inches.
Over the years, aside from those that would become Olympians,
there have been a few celebrity faces, including photographer Lord Snowdon, who rowed for Cambridge in 1950, Lord Colin Moynihan, doing his bit for Oxford in
1977, and the comedian Hugh Laurie, who stepped
out of the footlights briefly to row for Cambridge in