«The Boat Race»


Marzo 2023


The River Thames is for Londoners more than a beautiful river. I would say it is the perfect scenery for Britain´s most important social events. Every year many people gather along the riverbanks to watch and follow the traditional Cambridge-Oxford Boat Race. This is a rowing competition between both Universities celebrated in Spring. This year the race will be on the 26th of March.

The Men´s Boat Race came about when two friends from Harrow School, Charles Wordsworth (nephew of the poet William Wordsworth), of Christ Church College, Oxford, and Charles Merivale of St. John’s, Cambridge, met during the vacation in Cambridge. Wordsworth went rowing on the river Cam, and the two school fellows decided to set up a challenge. 

On 10 February 1829 a meeting of CUBC (Cambridge University Boat Club) requested Mr Snow of St John’s to write immediately to Mr Staniforth of Christ Church stating: ‘the University of Cambridge hereby challenge the University of Oxford to row a match at or near London, each in an eight-oared boat during the ensuing Easter vacation.’ 

The first Boat Race took place on the 10th of June 1829 at Henley on Thames. Oxford won this race easily, and their winning boat can still be seen in the River & Rowing Museum in Henley. 

For the next 25 years contests only happened on an irregular basis, moving to London for the second race in 1836.

The Boat Race is now one of the world’s oldest and most famous amateur sporting events, offering an unrivalled educational experience to the student athletes who take part. 

The world-famous sporting event between the UK’s two greatest universities now spans 185 years of rivalry and The Boat Race has become synonyms with British tradition and excellence. The Boat Race has established itself as the epitome of amateur sport, raced by student athletes who combine academic rigour with elite physical powers.

Nowadays, the race takes place in London on the famous Championship Course that stretches over 4.25 miles of tidal Thames in West London between Putney and Mortlake. It is regularly attended by over 250,000 spectators at the banks of the river and watched by millions more on TV.

Last year, Oxford beat Cambridge after having lost against them for the previous three consecutive years.

The Women´s Boat Race was founded in 1927 but only raced intermittently until the mid-1960’s, the first Women’s Boat Race was held on the Isis in Oxford.

The first few races were not decided in a side-by-side contest but were judged on “time and style”; the two crews were not allowed on the river at the same time.

From 1935 the races became proper contests over 1000 yards or a 1/2 mile, on either the River Cam, The Isis or on one occasion on the Tideway at Barnes.

Last year, Cambridge retained their title as winners of the Women’s Boat Race for the fifth consecutive year, 2 1/2 lengths ahead of rivals Oxford. FHB is very proud to count amongst its Think Tank Team members with Adriana Pérez Rotondo, a computational neuroscience PhD student at the University of Cambridge, who in 2021 became the first Spaniard to win the race and repeated the feat in 2022.

She is the perfect witness to share with all of us her experience!

“Before coming to Cambridge, I had never heard of the Boat Race, but this mythical event has shaped my time in Cambridge.

Every September around 60 amazing rowers join CUBC to compete for a seat in the Cambridge-Oxford regatta happening six months later. We wake up at 5 am and train 16 hours a week on top of our studies for the single goal of defeating Oxford on the Thames. There is an incredible team spirit that englobes a group of people with very diverse backgrounds: first year students train alongside PhD students and novice athletes alongside Olympic rowers.

I have raced three Boat Races in my four years in Cambridge University Boat Club (CUBC) and have had the honour of being the first Spaniard participating in this event. Although each race ended in a victory against Oxford, each season has been unique. In 2020 the race was cancelled for the first time since the second world war. In 2021 it was held in Ely, instead of the Thames. In 2022, the race was back on the championship course and the crowds on the banks of the Thames, and our Cambridge boat set the course record. 

These experiences and all the amazing people I met on the way will stay with me forever.”  

Adriana Pérez Rotondo, member of the FHB Think Tank Team

Related links:

➡️ FHB Interview with Adriana Pérez Rotondo

➡️ Adriana primera española….

➡️ Adriana …gana por segunda vez…