The Boat Race Collection

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The first Boat Race between the universities of Oxford and Cambridge took place in 1829, the year of the founding of the Cambridge University Boat Club (CUBC). It was not until ten years later that the Oxford University Boat Club (OUBC) was established.

It is the longest-surviving amateur event of national standing in the UK, apart from being the most famous of any student sporting occasion in the world, and the oldest formally organised sport at Oxford and Cambridge universities. In 1891 the World Rowing Federation FISA was founded and based on the principles of the Boat Race. Five years later, in 1896, Baron de Cubertin created the modern Olympic Games, modelling them on the spirit of the Boat Race and equally famous Henley Royal Regatta.

Since 1829 the Boat Race has been rowed every year except those of the two World Wars, from 1914-18 and 1940-45. It has been rowed on the Tideway course from Putney to Mortlake since it moved the venue from the Henley reach in 1845.

The Boat Race has for 150 years attracted attention not only from the United Kingdom, but from all around the world, in particular Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, the United States, Europe and Japan.

Interest in the race goes far beyond those people who have rowed or who went to either University. Since 1829 the Boat Race has become a national sporting event comparable in the public mind with only three other highlights of the sporting calendar: the Grand National, the Derby and the FA Cup.

The UK television audience averages about 9 million viewers and the BBC figures for worldwide TV and radio audience for all or part of each year's Boat Race is above 400 million.

The Boat Race remains unique not simply because of its national and international profile, but because, despite the changes of the last hundred years, it remains as it was in the outset, a private race between eighteen young men (and sometimes women*) from the two most famous universities in the world.


  • In the early years of the Boat Race the crews wore no distinguishing colours. In 1836 Oxford selected dark blue to race in, the colour of their stroke-man's college (Christ Church), and Cambridge adopted the "duck egg blue" of Eton.
  • In the history of the Boat Race there has been one dead heat. The judge on the finish ("Honest John" Phelps) was asleep under a bush as the crews raced past. When awakened and asked the result he said "Dead heat to Oxford by four feet".
  • *The first woman to get a "Blue" was Sue Brown, who coxed Oxford in 1981 and 1982 (to victory).
  • The 1998 Cambridge crew was the tallest and heaviest in the history of the race.

Now take a look at the
commemorative Boat Race Collection of
gifts, souvenirs and collectibles


The Rowing Service