Oar-some day

Round & About

The annual Oxford vs Cambridge university Boat Race takes place on the Thames in south west London today and will be watched by thousands not just along the banks but on the television too.

But did you know of its much more humble origins almost 200 years ago? 

The first boat race was staged after two school friends Charles Wordsworth (nephew of the poet) and a student at Christ Church in Oxford and Charles Merrivale of St John’s Cambridge, decided to set up a challenge after Wordsworth had been rowing on the Cam. 

A letter was written from St John’s to Christ Church stating “that the University of Cambridge hereby challenge the University of Oxford to row a match at or near London, each in an eight-oared boat during the ensuing Easter vacation”. 

That first boat race took place in Henley on 10th June 1829 with Oxford the victors – their boat can still be seen today in Henley’s River & Rowing Museum. 

For the next 25 years races only happened sporadically with the second taking place in 1836 in London. 

Today the event is one of the most eagerly-anticipated in the sporting calendar with not just the men’s eight taking to the water but the Women’s Boat Race and races between the reserve crews too. 

The course is four miles, 374 yards long and stretches from Putney to Mortlake and was first used in 1845. 

And there are many great spots for fans to enjoy the races from along the Thames including Putney and Hammersmith bridges, Chiswick Pier and Thames Reach. 

There’s also a fan park at Bishop’s Park in Fulham where you’ll find a big screen to watch the BBC coverage live, bars and street food vendors and at Furnivall gardens in Hammersmith where the Wainwright Fan Park will serve up a few pints of the official beer of the 2019 boat race, Wainwright The Golden Beer, alongside street food. Both parks are free to enter and family friendly. 

 The men’s race is due to start at 3.10pm and the women’s at 2.13pm. The fan parks open at 12pm.