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Ox/Cambridge Boat Race 2018

The Most Significant Moments Of The Ox/Cambridge Boat Race Throughout The Years

A race which began in 1829 as a challenge between old friends, now the Ox/Cambridge Boat Race is an icon of British culture. Over the years there has been many a tense moment, controversy and celebration. This is the short history of the boat race, an event which each year is the physical manifestation of the competition between these two titans of university education…

The Most Significant Moments
credit: theboatrace.org


The Race started in 1829 in Henley on Thames as the result of a challenge between old Harrow School friends. Charles Wordsworth (the nephew of the remarkable William Wordsworth) and Charles Merrivale decided upon this challenge after Wordsworth went rowing on the Cam. Oxford won this time around but, the challenge continued across the years with the loser always requesting a rematch – a tradition which has perpetuated this now historic boat race.


The women’s boat race began in 1927 but it wasn’t until 2015 that they were invited to share the main stage with the men’s race. In the earliest years, the women’s race was not a side-by-side contest between the two teams either, but instead, the women’s race was judged on “time and style.” This stylistic competition was not replaced until 1935 when the women were allowed to compete in a true contest over a ½ mile course. By the mid-1960s the women’s boat race finally become a permanent fixture, but across these decades the women’s crews were still suffering from hostility. It was the certainly not just a physical challenge. Come the feminist wave of the 1970s, however, the race moved to Henley where the women’s race finally began to be a continuous feature in the university sporting landscape. In the end, parity was eventually achieved in 2015 when the women took to the Tideway at Barnes on the same day as their male counterparts. Also televised for the first time, this led to the professionalisation of the female crew’s training as sponsorship rolled in. Now, with equivalence finally achieved, the women proved to the masses what had always been true: they could equal the men in every way.

ox/cambridge boat race 2018
credit: timeout.com


Of course in a challenge such as the Boat Race the most significant moments have to include the record times. For context, the Championship Course is 6.8km long from Putney to Mortlake in this stretch of the River Thames in South West London. The men’s record for this course was set by Cambridge in 1998 with a time of 16 minutes 19 seconds, whereas the women’s record stands at 18 minutes 33 seconds – the winning time again for Cambridge in 2017.


ox/cambridge boat race 2018
credit: thetelegraph.co.uk


In the history of the race, there have been mishaps from beginning to end. In 1883, the start was a pure state of confusion as neither crew could hear the starting orders from Edward Searle. Though Searle had started each race since 1840 by shouting ‘Go’ and dropping his handkerchief into the water, this year the clarity of the start was compromised. Ever since a pistol has been used to ensure that there is a fair start which does not rely on Searle’s discredited tradition. The late Nineteenth-Century seems to have been the era in which the organisation of the race was generally forced to improve its efficiency. It was, for example, in 1887 that the race was declared for the only time in its long history as a dead heat. This decision was ambiguous at best, with the finish line judge John Phelps apparently remarking that it was a “dead heat to Oxford by five feet.” Finally, this controversy demanded that a clear finish line was established – a finish post was put in place for the following years to mitigate any future confusion.


The 147th race in 2001 marks one of the biggest controversies in recent years. The then umpire Rupert Obholzer for the first time stopped and restarted the race as a result of a clash of blades. After having repeatedly warned the crews that they were too close to each other, he decided to take this later most contentious of decisions. It is bitterly remembered particularly because, whilst Oxford originally had the lead, it was the men’s Cambridge crew which finally went on to win. Obholzer’s interference lead to the establishment of an umpires’ panel which consists of four umpires from each university with a senior umpire as chair. For Cambridge, it will however remain a win marred by debate.


ox/cambridge boat race 2018
credit: abc.net.au


Trenton Oldfield, an Australian protester who swam in the race path during the 2012 race, was hoping to make a statement “against inequalities in British society” and the “culture of elitism.” He later compared his feat to that of Emily Davison, the suffragette who protested her inability to vote in 1913 by stepping out in front of the King’s horse at Epsom, sacrificing her life in order to highlight society’s inequality. The danger that Oldfield posed to himself and the crews meant that the race was restarted, as Oldfield was arrested. The drama continued as the Oxford bow, Alex Woods, collapsed after the race, losing consciousness. After months of consistent and disciplined training now ruined, it is no wonder that the theatrical turn that the race took meant that there was no celebration ceremony at the end of the 158th Boat Race.

As for this year…

When is the race?

The Ox/Cambridge Boat Race 2018 is on Saturday 24th March – the Women’s Boat Race will take place at 4.31pm, with the Men’s Boat Race following at 5.32pm. Events on the riverbank start at 12pm at Bishop’s Park, Fulham, and the Adnams Fan Park in Furnivall Gardens, Hammersmith with the TV coverage starting at 4pm.

What to wear – for him

It is of course always apt to dress for the occasion. This navy ensemble, softened with pastel touches for spring, most definitely pays homage to the blues who take to the river. The look is relaxed and features unstructured tailoring for the modern man – the perfect weekend attire to remain both classic and comfortable.

ox/cambridge boat race 2018
credit: mrporter.com

Wear with the classic Ravenna satchel bag…

What to wear – for her

For her, the focus should be classic colours with a unique twist. This Cefinn dress pairs beautifully which both the tradition of a camel trench and the modernity of the matching pair of trainers. It is an outfit which suggests ease and effortless style – finish off the look with a pair of geometric sunglasses whether the sun shines, or not.

ox/cambridge boat race 2018
credit: netaporter.com

Wear with the MedollaM saddle bag…