The Oxford and Cambridge University Boat Race

On April 7th 2012 the 158th Oxford and Cambridge University Boat Race will take place.  This now world famous race has its origins in 1829 and is in the record books for being one of the oldest annual sporting events in the world.  The race is set to be watched by thousands of spectators lined along the riverbank from Putney to Mortlake, with millions more watching the race unfold on the TV across the globe.  There is no other sporting event like the University Boat Race making it a unique event, and this year both teams are fielding incredible squads that look set to make an amazing race.

Photo by T P Holland
Photo by T P Holland

The First Ever Race

The first ever race was a challenge between two old school friends; Charles Wordsworth (nephew of the famous poet) of Oxford’s Christ Church College and Charles Merrivale of Cambridge’s St John’s, set up the challenge to be played out during their Easter vacation.  On June 10th 1829 two teams of rowers took to the water of the River Thames at Henley on Thames.  This pioneering first race saw Oxford take the first title in an easy win and the winning boat from this first race can still be viewed by visitors to the River & Rowing Museum in Henley.

The following 25 years saw the race happening on an irregular time table leading to the second race or rematch in 1836 being moved to London.  This year, on April 7th Cambridge will be hitting the water with a total of 80 victories under their belts, and Oxford with only 76 wins will be trying to narrow their lead.  The race has only ever ended with a dead heat once, in 1877 when judges were unable to declare a winner.

The 2012 Race

This year’s race is set to take place on Saturday 7th April at 2.15pm, the main event will follow the race of the reserve crews, setting the mood and raising the excitement for the main event.  The events that surround this historic race are set to begin at 12pm at Furnivall Gardens and Bishops Park, with BBC television coverage in the UK starting at 1pm.  Coverage will also be shown online and on international networks that will be televising the event around the world.

The event carries with it a carnival atmosphere with the spectators that line the course being able to watch the race from a number of vantage points, the best places to get a good view of the action are on Putney Bridge and Embankment, at the starting point at Bishop’s Park, the mid course point at Hammersmith and Barnes and then for the big finish at Chiswick Bridge and Dukes Meadows.  There will be large screens installed at Bishop’s Park in Fulham and the Funival Gardens in Hammersmith so that spectators will be able to view the entire race, not just as the crews pass.  Both sites will be filled with catering and refreshment stalls as well as merchandise and other such stalls to keep spectators in the festival spirit.

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