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THE BOAT RACE front      help

the oxford eight
The 148th Boat Race between Oxford University (the Dark Blues) and Cambridge University (the Light Blues) takes place at 2.10pm on Saturday 30 March 2002. The reserve race between Oxford (Isis) and Cambridge (Goldie) will take place half an hour earlier.
The race starts on the River Thames by Putney Bridge in London, and finishes 6.77km (4.21 miles) upstream at Mortlake, just before Chiswick Bridge.
The Boat Race has attracted oarsmen from around the world, in particular the United States, Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and South Africa. As a result, the race has a significant following abroad.
Hundreds of thousands of spectators line the banks of the River Thames to watch this epic and traditional race, which is more than three times the Olympic rowing distance. In Great Britain, an estimated six million people will watch the race live on television. An estimated global audience of 400 million people in 180 countries will watch it.

The crew members have trained on average six hours a day, six days a week since October 2001 for this race. Each oarsman will make an average of 600 strokes during the race and has trained for an average of two hours per stroke.

Not all boats make it to the end. Since the race was launched in 1829, six have sunk while racing. On three occasions it determined the result, with the surviving boat winning: Cambridge twice (1859 and 1978) and Oxford once (1925).
On 31 March 1912, both sank and the race was held again on 1 April.
On 24 March 1951, Oxford sank and the race was rescheduled for 26 March, when Cambridge won.
Cambridge has won the race a total of 77 times against Oxford’s 69 wins. There was one dead heat on 24 March 1877. Cambridge holds the course record of 16.19 minutes, which was set in 1998, and the biggest winning margin of 20 lengths was also set by Cambridge in 1900.
Last year, Cambridge beat Oxford in a contraversial race. Oxford was leading when the umpire stopped the race. The race was restarted and Cambridge won.
Cambridge has the longest winning streak in the history of the Boat Race with 13 successive wins from 1924 to 1936. Oxford won for ten years running from 1976 to 1985.
The first Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race took place at Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire on 10 June 1829. 20 000 people watched Oxford win.

The idea for the race came from two friends, Charles Merival, a student at Cambridge University and Charles Wordsworth who was at Oxford University. Cambridge sent a challenge to Oxford and the race was arranged. To this day, the losing team must challenge the winners to a rematch. After the first race, the races took place on the River Thames at Westminster in London, but in 1845 the race moved upstream to Putney. In 1856 the race became an annual event (apart from the war years when it was suspended).

The make up of the rowing crew has changed dramatically over the years. In 1829, 90% of Blues went on to work in the church; in recent years, 90% of Blues have entered banking!

The Boat Race runs over tidal water. The race is usually held on the incoming flood tide, one hour before high water at Putney. Crews race against the stream but with the flow of the tide. The cox of each crew spends many hours working with professional Thames watermen to learn where the best course may lie on Race Day.

The crews draw lots to determine their ‘station’ on the river. There are three bends in the course; two favour the crew on the Middlesex station, whilst the third favours the crew on the Surrey station. However, the start and finish lines are exactly parallel and, in spite of these bends, the crews should cover the same distance.

The University Stone marks the start of the race, a few hundred yards upstream from Putney road bridge, and the finish line is just a few yards downstream from Chiswick road bridge.

Row, row, row your boat
gently down the stream,
merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
life is but a dream

Copyright and Permission: Karen Starr 2002

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