The Easter Weekend of 2013 in London saw the 159th Boat Race, by far the longest running sporting event to take place in the city. Covering a course of a little over four miles along the Thames, the race is as much a part of London as the river itself.
The chance to see the university rowing teams of Oxford and Cambridge go head to head in a tough race from Putney to Mortlake in West London has proven to be a big draw for visitors to the city for many years. This year, those who turned out to watch the race were treated to the sight of two Olympic medal winners battle it out to be on the winning team with one in each of the blue boats that fought it out on the river.
History of the race
The Boat Race has seen Oxford and Cambridge pit their best rowers against one another since 1856, and has taken place every year come rain or shine except during the years of both World Wars. Through the years, Cambridge have traditionally had the edge in the winning stakes, with three more wins under their belt than their Oxford opponents over the total number of races that have taken place.
The most recent race
This year two strong teams, each with a decorated Olympian amongst their team members, took to the river to battle it out for first place. After a slog along the course, the Dark Blues of Oxford took the day with over a length lead on the Light Blues of Cambridge. Over a quarter of a million people are thought to have lined the banks of the Thames to watch the boats pass and cheer on their chosen team. This differs from the Olympic course at Henley-on-Thames, where this year’s ladies teams battled it out for their own title in the wake of two of their male compatriots in the men’s race boats.
Over half a million people turned out to see the Boat Race. With beautiful weather, it was a great draw for tourists who had the chance to see a little bit of London history being played out in front of their eyes. The victorious team, Oxford, took to the podium in Putney and sprayed the waiting crowd with champagne to celebrate their victory over their great rivals.
The future of the race
Next year’s race will be held on the 6th April and will follow the same famous course as this year, but with one difference. Whereas the women’s race this year was on the Olympic course in Henley and held one week earlier than the men’s race, next year the men and women will compete on the same day using the same course. This is a big change to the tradition of the Boat Race and signifies the growing equality that women’s sports are gaining with those of the men and brings women’s rowing to a huge television and live spectator audience.
The teams, however, will continue to race in light and dark blue as ever and the competition will be just as fierce. If there’s one thing about the Boat Race that is never likely to change, it’s the huge rivalry between the Oxbridge universities that dates back much further than the race itself.
The Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race is one of the highlights of the London sporting calendar and brings with it a unique atmosphere and long heritage. While the location of the race may change, the spirit of what makes the race such a huge draw for the crowds has and will remain the same for years to come.