The Boat Race (also known as the The Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race) is a rowing race between the Oxford University Cambridge University’s Boat Clubs, and takes place this coming Saturday 3 April 2010 at 4.30pm. Members of both teams are traditionally known as blues and each boat as a “Blue Boat”, with Cambridge in light blue and Oxford dark blue.
The first race was in 1829 and it has been held annually since 1856, with the exception of the two world wars. The event is a popular one within rowing and the public at large. An estimated quarter of a million people watch the race live from the banks of the river, around seven to nine million people on TV in the UK, and an overseas audience estimated at around 120 million, which would make this the most viewed single day sporting event in the world. Most people have a particular team that they support year after year, mine is Oxford who won last year although Cambridge currently lead the series since 1829 by 79-75.
“It’s a purely amateur event. The rowers do it for the honour and the love of the sport – not for money. They are first and foremost students at the two universities taking part in a brutal race requiring Olympic-standard training and involving many Olympic-level athletes in a competition which has been going for 181 years. It’s a very traditional British event, raced at the worst time of the year, often in terrible conditions over a winding course, full of uncertainty and tactics, which, at four and a quarter miles, is three times longer than the usual Olympic distance. The chances of a sinking, of clashes or of disqualification and collapse gives it a rare unpredictability and sense of potential danger – a bit like Formula 1.”
If you are in Pimlico and want to watch the race you have the following options:
- It is on BBC Television after a five-year absence, Dan Topolski is one of the BBC’s co-commentators 3.10-5.10pm BBC ONE.
- For a bit more atmosphere I think it’s very likely that your local pub will show the race, but do check first.
- To make an event of it take the District Line from Victoria to either Ravenscourt Park or Putney Bridge (both 20 mins) and a 10 min walk to Furnival Gardens or Bishops Park. Both have a festival which will run from 12noon until 6pm and will include full BBC 1 coverage of the Race on the large screens, beer stands, will supply alcohol and soft drinks at both parks.
- Some people watch the event from one of the pubs which overlook the river, it is impossible to exaggerate how early you need to arrive and how packed they will be.
- If you wish to watch the event live it is very feasible, and free. However do not be tempted to travel by car, take the District Line from Victoria to either Hammersmith (mid race) or Putney Bridge (start).
- If going to the start cross Putney Bridge to watch the race start from the Surrey side – this has the advantage that you can see the preparations, warm up, and actual start.
- If going to mid-race you walk to the river and then either cross Hammersmith Bridge to the less busy Surrey side, which offers a better view because of fewer spectators, or stay on the Middlesex side and walk towards Chiswick to find a good viewing point. As this is on the outside of the bend you see much much more of the race, however the crowds will be much deeper.
Further information on all aspects of the race is available at The Boat Race’s own website and I expect that the media will focus this year on the Winklevoss twins, who are both rowing in the Oxford crew. Cameron and Tyler recently won a massive out-of-court settlement acknowledging their role in developing the ideas behind the social networking site Facebook.