The Oxford and Cambridge boat race began in 1829 and was first held at Henley-on-Thames. The race was later moved to Westminster but boat racing still plays a part at Henley who now stage the Henley Royal Regatta. Today's home of the boat race is six miles up stream from Westminster at Putney and the race attracts huge crowds and media coverage. The Oxford and Cambridge boat race is also part of the social season and is attended by debutantes and society on the social circuit.


100th race


Archive boat race picture



The Oxford and Cambridge  Boat Race (Sunday, 27 March 2005) between eights from the two oldest universities in England takes place annually in late March or early April. It used to be televised on BBC TV but from 2005 is on  ITV in the UK (see  ITV information). On the day before the main race there are additional  boat races at Henley-on-Thames (Saturday, 26 March 2005).


Dating from 1829, this legendary boat race is billed as `the world's longest surviving sporting challenge'. The gruelling four-and-a-quarter-mile distance from Putney to Mortlake is three times the length of an Olympic course with the competitors often facing formidable waves and bitter winds - the race has never been cancelled due to bad weather - and the whole event is over in just 20 minutes, a fact that belies the six months of sweat and toil the teams put in in preparation for the big day. In the past Oxford have had the upper hand but the years from 1993 onwards have seen Cambridge sweep to victory after a six year run of wins by Oxford.




The Cambridge team





The idea for a rowing race between the universities came from two friends - Charles Merivale, a student at Cambridge, and his Harrow schoolfriend Charles Wordsworth (nephew of the poet William Wordsworth), who was at Oxford.

On 12 March 1829, Cambridge sent a challenge to Oxford and thus the tradition was born which has continued to the present day, where the loser of the previous year's race challenges the opposition to a re-match.

The first Boat Race took place at Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire and contemporary newspapers report crowds of twenty thousand travelled to watch. The race was stopped soon after the start and, following the restart, Oxford were clear winners. The event was such a resounding success that the townspeople later decided to organise a regatta of their own which duly became Henley Royal Regatta. After the first year, the early Boat Races took place at Westminster in London, but by 1845, when Westminster had become too crowded, the Boat Race moved six miles up-stream to the then country village of Putney. In 1856 the race became an annual event (excepting only the war years).




Oxford lead widens



Coming to watch?




If you're coming to watch the race you'll want the organisers comprehensive guide to watching the Boat Race.  It contains information on how to get to the start, middle and end of the course, details on pubs along the way and walks you can take along the river. They also provide information about watching on television, online or listening on the radio.



Race guide


So what makes a modern Boat Race? Our Race Guide section explains all. We detail how the crews build up to the big day in The Crews, give a detailed guide to the 4 mile course in The Famous Course and much more.




The Oxford team




A good selection of images from past races in our Picture Gallery. It will be updated with photos of this year's race soon after the event.

Frequently Asked Questions


About rowing


You don't have to be at Oxford or Cambridge to row. It's a thriving sport for everybody in all parts of the country. You can find out more in About Rowing.



Oxford triumph in 151st Boat Race


Oxford won the 2005 Boat Race, sponsored by Xchanging, by two lengths in 16:42. They came home six seconds ahead of Cambridge in the third fastest time ever.

The Dark Blues made a strong start and whilst Cambridge drew back into The Race, Oxford made the decisive move as they approached Chiswick Steps.

The Oxford victory - their third in four years - narrows down Cambridge"s overall series lead to 78-72 in an event which dates back to 1829.




Oxford team celebrates their win - March 2005



Battle of the Blues


The official history of the first 150 Boat Races is available in a fascinating book, called the Battle of the Blues, which is accompanied by a CD with lots of stats and background material. To order: e-mail eventmanager@theboatrace.org






Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race Dining Club of Chicago



The 66th Annual Oxford-Cambridge
Boat Race Dinner in Chicago
will be on Friday, April 8th, 2005.


At the University Club of Chicago,

76 East Monroe Street (at Michigan Avenue), Chicago, Illinois

Cash bar: 6:00 p.m.  Dinner: 7:00 p.m.  Black Tie Optional.


Our guests of honor will be:


Sir John Hanson, KCMG, CBE

Warden, Green College, Oxford
(Wadham College, Oxford 57)


Andrew James Seaton
H.M. Consul General in Chicago
and Helen Pott Seaton



John H. Morrison, University College, Oxford 55
Honorary Secretary and Treasurer
Phone: (847) 869-5950
Fax: (847) 869-6993






A summary chronology:


1829: First Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race held on 10 June at Henley-on-Thames

1836: Second race from Westminster to Putney

1845: First Boat Race held on The Thames between Putney and Mortlake

1849: Oxford won on a foul

1859: Cambridge sank

1873: First year the crews raced on sliding seats

1877: The race resulted in a dead heat

1898: The Cambridge crew was waterlogged but finished

1900: Cambridge win by 20 lengths

1912: The Race was scheduled for 31 March but both boats sank and it had to be re-run on 1 April

1915-19: No Boat Races during the First World War

1925: Oxford sank

1927: First year the BBC broadcast a running commentary on The Boat Race

1938: BBC Television covered The Boat Race for the first time

1932: The course was cut short by one minute due to construction work on Putney Bridge

1940-45: On 24 March, Oxford sank and the race was rescheduled for 26 March, when Cambridge won

1952: Oxford won by a canvas in a blizzard

1954: The 100th Boat Race. Oxford won

1976: First sponsorship of The Boat Race, by Ladbrokes. Oxford broke the 17 minute barrier

1978: The Cambridge Blue Boat sank

1981: Sue Brown was the first female to participate in the race. She steered Oxford to victory

1982: Hugh and Rob Clay were the first twins ever to row in The Boat Race

1984: Cambridge wrote off their boat minutes before the start of the race

1985: Henrietta Shaw became the first Cambridge female cox

1987: The year of the famous Oxford mutiny caused by a number of top class American oarsmen who refused to row when a fellow American was dropped in preference for the English President, Donald Macdonald. Oxford, with Macdonald, won. Beefeater Gin became the official sponsor of The Boat Race

1988: Dennis Thatcher presented the trophy to the winning Oxford crew

1989: The first time both Blue Boats were coxed by women - Alison Norrish (Oxford) and Leigh Weiss (Cambridge). HRH Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, presented the trophy to the winning Oxford crew

1990: The record for the heaviest crew member ever to row in The Boat Race was broken by Chris Heathcote, weighing in at 17st 5lbs

1991: HRH Princess Anne presented the trophy to the winning Oxford crew

1992: Oxford beat Cambridge by one-and-a-half lengths in the closest race for twelve years. Matthew Pinsent, 1993 Oxford President, and Jonathan Searle, 1990 Oxford President, won gold medals at the 1992 Olympic Games

1993: Cambridge won in the fourth fastest time ever, defeating a much favoured Oxford crew

1994: For the first time in 21 years, Cambridge won two Boat Races in succession. His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent presented the trophy

1996: Cambridge President, John Carver, watched his crew win the 1996 Boat Race from the launch boat, then picked up the trophy on their behalf from HRH Duchess of Kent

1997: Steve Redgrave, four-times Olympic rowing gold medallist, presented the trophy to the winning Cambridge crew

1998: Cambridge fielded the heaviest and tallest crew in Boat Race history. Both crews broke the course record with Cambridge winning for the sixth consecutive year in a course record time of 16 mins 19 sec. Beefeater Gin's sponsorship ended after 12 years

1999: The Oxford and Cambridge University Boat Clubs signed a three year sponsorship deal with Aberdeen Asset Management. Cambridge broke their own record for the tallest crew, helped by Josh West, the tallest man in Boat Race history at 6'9"

2000: Oxford won the 2000 Boat Race after seven consecutive wins by Cambridge. Matt Smith became the youngest oarsman to win the Boat Race. Of the 12 British oarsmen who won gold medals at the Sydney Olympics, five had rowed in The Boat Race

2001: The 2001 Boat Race ended with a clear win for Cambridge, despite early clashes when Oxford were half a length ahead, then a restart after Cambridge bowman Colin Swainson lost an oar

2002: Oxford won in one of the tightest races of recent history. Cambridge man Sebastian Mayer seemed to collapse as The Race progressed.

2003: Oxford won by just one foot - probably the closest Boat Race of all-time given that the 1877 Dead Heat was recorded as "by six feet to Oxford". In those days boat alignment at the start and finish photography were not as sophisticated as today. Two sets of brothers rowed in opposing boats setting a Race precedent. David Livingston and Matt Smith were in the winning Oxford crew. James Livingston and Ben Smith rowed for Cambridge. It was a titanic struggle of a Race.





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