The Boat Race 2018 will see Oxford and Cambridge go head-to-head in their annual rowing competition for a 163rd year, as they look to secure the bragging rights for the next 12 months.
While not the most popular of sports, rowing becomes relevant to the masses for one day of the year as hundreds of thousands of people line the River Thames to catch a short glimpse of the competitors as they race towards Chiswick Bridge.
Having produced many memories over the years, from elitism protests to sinking vessels, Verdict looks back at some of the best moments in The Boat Race’s 189 year history.
1829: The first race
The inaugural boat race, prompted by a meeting between two students, one from Oxford and one from Cambridge, while on vacation, took place on 10 June 1829 in Henley on Thames.
The competitive nature of the race was present from the start, as Cambridge attempted to force Oxford to crash during the early stages. Following a restart, Cambridge secured the bragging rights.
Drawing a crowd of more than 20,000, the race became a local tradition that would continue for more than 180 years.
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1877: Blind judge, dead heat
On the official Boat Race records, the 1877 race is recorded as a Dead Heat, meaning both competitors finished the race at exactly the same time.
However, the decision, made by umpire “Honest John Phelps” isn’t quite as straight-forward as those records suggest. According to Phelps, his boat had actually drifted behind a number of spectator vessels, obscuring his view of the finish line.
There is also the small fact that Phelps was aged 70, thought to be blind in one eye and was often found drunk under a bush.
1912: Sinking ships
From two winners to none at all, the 1912 race was abandoned after both teams sank on their way to the Championship Course finish line.
Rough waters coupled with relentless winds forced Cambridge to stop as their boat filled with water. Oxford made it to the finish line, but their efforts were for nothing. Umpire Frederick Pitman had already called a no race and set a rerun for the following day.
1927: First women’s race
The announcement of a women’s boat race in 1927 was a positive step in the right direction. However, the sport still had a long way to go. Rather than racing, which was considered unladylike, female competitors were judged on the steadiness, finish, rhythm and style of their rowing.
1927: First radio coverage
The 1927 race was the first to be broadcast live on radio. Commentating from a barge running alongside the competitors, former Oxford rower and Olympian Oliver “Gully” Nickalls and writer Sir John Squire helped to make the competition the national event that it is today.
1938: First televised race
A decade on, the newly formed British Broadcasting Corporation decided to televise the event.
However, limited technology meant that they could only broadcast the event’s finale, likely because they couldn’t get the camera equipment on a boat. Instead, commentary was accompanied by a chart of the course, on which the two boats were moved along by magnets.
The 1949 race was the first to be fully televised.
2000: Oxford breaks seven year streak
Cambridge sits just ahead of Oxford for total victories, having won 82 races to Oxford’s 80. However, the race hasn’t always been so closely fought. Cambridge embarked on a seven year spell of dominance between 1992 and 1999.
Yet, the new millennium renewed Oxford’s fortunes, as they produced a “shock triumph”, beating their opponents by three lengths to reclaim the title.
2012: The public nuisance
The 2012 race was arguably the most memorable year in history. Trenton Oldfield, a 36-year-old Australian, kicked off the chaos by swimming in front of crews at the 158th Oxford and Cambridge race.
Declared a “public nuisance”, Oldfield was handed a six month jail term for his protest and ordered to pay costs of £750.
He did succeed in stopping the race, albeit briefly. However, his valiant efforts forced little change to society.
2012: Competitor faints
The entertainment kept up in 2012, as Cambridge rowed to victory following the restart.
However, all eyes were on Oxford after the two teams crossed the finish line. It took several minutes for anybody to notice that Oxford’s Alex Woods, who was still slumped out in the back of the boat, had seemingly fainted.
2015: Equal fights
Having come a long way since the inaugural 1927 women’s race, the 2015 race saw Oxford and Cambridge’s female competitors compete along the same stretch of water as their male counterparts in what was a historic day for the sport.
It was also the first time that the women’s race was broadcast live, as Oxford’s Catalyst rowed to victory.
2016: Rising waters
Oxford prevailed at the 2016 women’s boat race for a fourth successive year, but Cambridge were the stars of the show. The team battled on to the finish line despite watching their boat fill up with water throughout the course of the race.
The Boat Race 2018: All the details
The University of Oxford and University of Cambridge will compete in the 163rd annual Boat Race, which will take place on Saturday, 24 March along The Championship Course, a 4.2-mile stretch of the River Thames.
The men’s, women’s and reserve races will all be held on the same day for the third year.
The race will get underway at Putney Bridge, with the finish line positioned near Chiswick Bridge. The women’s race will start at 4:31pm London time, followed by the men’s race at 5:32pm.
The Boat Race 2018 can be watched for free from any point along the course. The organisers recommend Putney Bridge for those wishing to see the start, Hammersmith Bridge during the middle of the race and Dukes Meadow for those that want a view of the finish line.
The race will be shown live on BBC One, with coverage starting at 3:50pm. Worldwide viewers can also stream the action via YouTube.