Watched by thousands, the Cancer Research UK Oxford and Cambridge University Boat Race is one of the most well-established sporting events in the world. Sunday 27 March 2016 sees the running of the 162nd Boat Race and 71st Women’s Boat Race, both now taking place on the Championship Course between Putney and Mortlake. Here’s a few things you might not know about the world’s most famous boat race…

Words: Lorraine Crighton-Smith

1 The Boat Race is an annual contest between two rowing crews from Oxford and Cambridge universities that takes place along the ‘Championship Course’, a four-and-a-quarter-mile stretch of the River Thames from Putney to Mortlake.


2 The first Boat Race took place in 1829, but a little further down the river in Henley-on-Thames. What began as a challenge between two former school friends has now become an annual event, which is watched by thousands along the banks of the river – and is broadcast to millions more around the world. The second race took place in 1836, which is when it moved to London. The first Women’s Boat Race took place in 1927.


3 This year’s Boat Races, taking place on Sunday 27 March, will be the 162nd Boat Race and the 71st Women’s Boat Race.

The Thames course has been used since 1845, but the first women's race wasn't until 1927

The Thames course has been used since 1845, but the first women’s race wasn’t until 1927

4 This year is the first that BNY Mellon and Newton Investment Management, sponsors of The Boat Races, will donate their title sponsorship of the race to Cancer Research UK (CRUK).


5 The current score between the two men’s clubs is Cambridge (racing in light blue) 81 and Oxford (racing in dark blue) 79, with one dead heat. The current score for the women’s boat races is Cambridge 41, Oxford 29.


6 A coin toss determines which side, or station, each team will race on – either Middlesex (Fulham/Chiswick) or Surrey (Putney/Barnes). Each side has its own advantages and disadvantages due to the bends in the river.


7 The women’s race takes places first, at 3.10pm, with the men’s race following second at 4.10pm.


8 The record time over the course in The Boat Race is 16 minutes 19 seconds, which was set by Cambridge in 1998.


9 Multi-Olympic Gold Medalist Sir Matthew Pinsent CBE, World Champion and Olympic Silver Medallist Cath Bishop and actor/comedian Hugh Laurie are just three of the Boat Races notable alumni.



The Putney/Barnes course is known as the Surrey side

10 Occasionally boats can sink! Sounds like we’re stating the obvious here but there have been six sinkings in the history of the Boat Race. On 31 March 1912, both boats sank and the race was rescheduled for the following day.


11 The Boat Races are always umpired by an ‘old Blue’, with an ex-Oxford umpire alternating year on year with an ex-Cambridge umpire.


12 The race passes under Hammersmith and Barnes Bridges – but neither crew are permitted to row through the centre arches.