The Boat Race: 8 Things you Didn’t Know

By School House

7 years ago

Get clued up before the 2017 Cancer Research UK Boat Races

This Sunday, two teams of eight rowers (and their cox) will go head to head on the River Thames for one of the most quintessential of British events – the Boat Race. Here are eight interesting facts about the event. 

Boat Race

1. That sinking feeling

There have been six sinkings in the history of the Boat Race. In 1912, both teams’ boats sank due to poor weather and as a result, the race had to be rescheduled for the following day. In an un-weather related incident, the 1984 Cambridge team sank theirs during a warm-up en route to the start after hitting a moored barge. In recent years, the likelihood of a sunken boat has decreased. Last year, Cambridge women’s crew were completely swamped with water from halfway, and looked like they were going to sink. The team were kept afloat however by sealed compartments of air underneath each seat.

2. Weighing in

What’s the winning formula for a rip-rowing Boat Race? Apparently weight has a lot to do with it. The heavier crew has gone on to win the Men’s Boat Race 58 per cent of the time, with that figure rising to 63 per cent in more recent years. This year, Cambridge weigh in heavier than Oxford, weighing a total of 747.6kg (117.7 stone), making them 25.9kg (4.1st) heftier than their 721.7kg (113.6st) rivals.

3. Top billing

On 11 April 2015 the 70th women’s race was held on the same day as the traditional male event for the first time. This was all thanks to Helena Morrissey, the CEO of Newton Asset Management – and head of the 30 Per Cent Club, which aims to get more women into British boardrooms, who stepped in as a sponsor for the women’s teams to compete. Rebranded as ‘The Boat Races’, the combined event was broadcast on national television in UK, during which the audience for the women’s race reached 4.8 million viewers.

4. Sporty schools

Abingdon Boat Race

Many of the men’s rowers in the Boat Race take up their oars at top independent schools, like Hampton, Eton, Shrewsbury, Loretto School and Bradfield College. This year, three former Abingdon School oarsmen are in the Men’s Oxford crew: brothers Ollie and Jamie Cook and Vassilis Ragoussis. Ollie Cook (second row, first left) and Vassilis Ragoussis (third row, last on right) are pictured alongside other Abingdon rowers past and present in the image above.

5. Famous faces

It comes as no surprise that many Olympians have competed at the Boat Race, including four-time gold medallist Sir Matthew Pinsent (one of the few oarsmen of modern times to win an Olympic gold while still a student). Another Oxford who went on to row at the Olympics was one Ran Laurie, although his son (another member of the Boat Race alumni) is probably better know to the public. Actor, comedian and director Hugh Laurie rowed for the Cambridge crew in 1980, a year when they nearly overtook Oxford whose bow-man was exhausted, but lost by a few feet. Other notable alumni include Andrew Irvine (Oxford 1922, 1923), Lord Snowdon (Cambridge 1950) and Dan Snow (Oxford 1999, 2000, 2001).

6. On a separate note

The first Women’s Boat Race, in 1927, was held on the River Isis in Oxford. But did you know that Oxford and Cambridge were prevented from competing side by side? Instead, the teams glided downstream separately so the judges could assess their ‘style and grace’. Thankfully, this archaic rule was amended.

7. Band of brothers

Notable brothers have competed in the Boat Race, including the American Winklvoss twins. Cameron and Tyler both compete at the 2008 Olympics in the men’s coxless pair event before rowing for the Oxford team. In 2003, David and James Livingston become the first brothers for more than 100 years to face each other in opposing crews for the 149th Boat Race.

8. Dead heat

There has only been one dead heat in the history of the Boat Race, which occurred in 1877. Although the result was put into dispute by Oxford, who believed that they were the victors.  The controversy resulted in the introduction of the finishing posts, and former ‘Blues’ as umpires. We’ll have to wait and see if Sunday’s race will be the second…


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