The annual river race between Oxford and Cambridge universities is one of the oldest sporting events in the world. The men’s race dates back to 1829 and the women’s to 1927.
This year’s Oxford and Cambridge River Race is due to take place on Sunday 7th April, when it will be raising funds for Cancer Research. It is one of London’s biggest free sporting spectacles, creating a party atmosphere on the banks of the River Thames.
Every year, up to 250,000 spectators gather to watch Cambridge University and Oxford University race along the 4.2-mile course between Putney and Mortlake. The women’s race will start at 2.15pm and the men’s race at 3.15pm.
Boat race origins
The famous boat race began when two former Harrow School pupils, St John’s Cambridge student Charles Merrivale and Charles Wordsworth (the poet William Wordsworth’s nephew) of Christ Church College, Oxford, met during the holidays.
Wordsworth went rowing on the River Cam in Cambridge and the two students decided to set up a challenge. The idea was launched at a Meeting of Cambridge University Boat Club on 10th February 1829, when the challenge was issued to Oxford University to take part in a race during the Easter holiday.
Oxford won the first boat race, with the crews competing in their famous eight-oared rowing boats, but for the next 25 years, it wasn’t an annual event. The second race moved to London in 1836 and it became an annual event in 1856.
The women’s race was founded in 1927, with the first being held on the River Thames. A report in The Times newspaper said a “large and hostile” crowd gathered on the riverbank because they objected to women rowing and felt it wasn’t a suitable activity for the “weaker sex”.
However, the women’s crews persevered, until like the men’s race, it became an annual event in the 1960s.
This year’s event will be the 165th men’s boat race and 74th women’s race. The race’s official title is the Cancer Research UK Boat Race, as the sponsor, BNY Mellon and Newton Investment Management, donates money to the charity.
Cancer Research UK was founded on 4th February 2002, when the Imperial Cancer Research Fund and the Cancer Research Campaign merged into one charity.
It is the largest independent cancer research charity in the world and carries out research into the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of the disease. Its work is funded almost entirely by public donations and more than 40,000 people are regular volunteers.
Last year’s boat race took place on 24th March, following intensive training for the crew in the weeks preceding the event.
Cambridge won the women’s race, finishing around seven lengths in front of Oxford. It was a clean sweep, with the Cambridge men’s team also beating their Oxford rivals by three lengths.
A spokesperson for Cancer Research UK described the boat race as a “truly iconic British sporting event” and also explained how the charity’s work had fuelled medical progress that has led to cancer survival rates doubling in the past forty years. Two in four people survive cancer today and the aim is to improve this rate further.
Boat race day out
If you’re planning a trip to the Thames to join the party atmosphere of the boat race, you can watch along the full length of the course, on either side of the river.
Some of the best spots for a great view include Putney Bridge and embankment, and Bishop’s Park at the start. For the first mile, Craven Cottage, home of Fulham Football Club, boasts a great view, while mid-course, Barnes and Hammersmith are good spots.
At the finish, Duke’s meadows and Chiswick Bridge offer a good vantage point. Alternatively, you can watch the action on the big screen at a Boat Race Fan Park, live on BBC TV.
The main fan park is located in Bishop’s Park at the start of The Boat Race, where the whole family is welcome to join the fun. Open from noon, visitors can watch the live BBC coverage on the big screen, while enjoying street food.
There will also be several bars selling Wainwright beer, Chapel Down wine and soft drinks, and stalls at the park will be selling boat race merchandise.
The Wainwright Fan Park is located at Furnivall Gardens in Hammersmith, in the race’s middle section, where spectators can enjoy some of the best views on the course.
If you’re planning a great day out at the Oxford and Cambridge River Race with family and friends, a minibus from H&H Van Hire is an ideal way for groups to travel.
Take advantage of our cost-effective weekend hire by choosing one of our comfortable nine, 14 or 17-seater minibuses, which will enable everyone to arrive together.
Travel in style and work up a party atmosphere in an H&H minibus!
Please contact us for details.