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Everything You Need to Know About The Oxford v Cambridge Boat Race 2023

Everything You Need to Know About The Oxford v Cambridge Boat Race 2023

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Hooray – The Oxford v Cambridge Boat Race Returns to London for 2023!

The Oxford v Cambridge Boat Race is an iconic British event, attracting hundreds and thousands of spectators each year, and many more who watch it on TV in their homes and pubs around the UK. 

This year the historic race will take place on March 26th. 

Here’s what you need to know…

The Oxford v Cambridge Boat Race Showdown

Boat Race
Credit: MarkOne Ltd

Stretching out between Putney and Mortlake is a gruelling 4.25 mile course along the Thames with a whole lot of history – and a healthy dose of uni rivalry thrown in for good measure.

The annual event, which takes place between rowing teams from Oxford and Cambridge University, is returning to London in 2023 for the 168th Men’s Boat Race and the 77th Women’s Boat Race. 

Trust us when we say that you do not want to miss it.

What time is The Boat Race? The race is rowed upstream and is pedantically timed to start at the same time as the incoming flood tide. 

This means that the Men’s Race usually starts 90 minutes before high tide, while the Women’s Race is held an hour earlier so that both teams are rowing with the help of a fast current behind them.

This year the women’s race will begin at 4pm and the men’s race will start at 5pm.  

A Potted History of the Iconic Boat Race 

Boat Race
Credit: MarkOne Ltd

It’s believed that the origins of the Oxford Cambridge Boat Race stem from two friends who had previously attended Harrow School together. 

Charles Wordsworth (yes, that’s William Wordsworth’s nephew) attended Christ Church College in Oxford, while Charles Merivale was studying at St. John’s, Cambridge. The men met up when Wordsworth decided to row on the Cam and, following this, the two school pals thought that it would be fun to set up a challenge.

On the 10th February 1829, the Cambridge University Boat Club made the request that Mr Snow of St John’s would write 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.’

It was then decided that the first Boat Race would happen on the 10th June that very year at Henley on Thames. In fact, Oxford won this race by a mile, and you can actually view the boat in Henley’s River & Rowing Museum.

Thereafter the races took place intermittently, eventually moving to London for the grand debacle we all know and love in 1836.

So far Cambridge holds the record for the fastest finish. The record was set in 1998 and is a zippy 16 minutes 19 seconds.

About The Course

Nicknamed The Championship Course, The Boat Race course is kind of a big deal. 

Exactly the same route has been used since 1845 – except for a few dates when the race was flipped on its head and held in the opposite direction.

There are two University Boat Race Stones: one on Putney Embankment, which marks the starting spot; and another stone on the bank at Mortlake, marking the finish line.

The whole race should take about 15 – 20 minutes. 

Top Spots for Watching the Boat Race 2023 

Putney Bridge
Putney Bridge marks the start of the Boat Race

As the race takes place on water, there’s nowhere better to watch the event than on the three bridges that mark the start, middle, and end of the course. Though Hammersmith Bridge is actually closed to spectators this year, for fears of overcrowding.

That leaves two options: Putney Bridge is right before the start of the race, while Barnes Bridge overlooks the finish line.

As you can imagine, the bridges get incredibly crowded during the race, so you’ll want to turn up very early for the best chance of getting great views. Or watch the start of the race at Putney, then rush to a nearby pub (we love The Boathouse) to see the rest.

Other brilliant pubs where you can watch the race include The Eight Bells near Fulham Palace, The Rutland Arms near Hammersmith Bridge (which has riverside seating where you can watch the action IRL) or The Bulls Head near Barnes Bridge.

Hammersmith Bridge

Our recommendation? Pick a pub near the end of the course, have a pint or two until the rowers reach the finish line, then head outside for a glimpse of the celebrations.

Watching the Oxford v Cambridge Boat Race: Practical Tips

  • If you don’t want to deal with the crowded pubs and bridge spots, any section of promenade along the course should do, and will probably be a little quieter. 
  • The best tube stations for watching the race are: Hammersmith, Putney Bridge or Kew Gardens
  • Alternatively, you can head to overground stations at Barnes Bridge, Mortlake, Putney and Chiswick.
  • Be prepared that transport in the area will be busy on the day. It might be best to set off a little early in order to avoid disappointment. 

Key Spots for Watching the Oxford v Cambridge Boat Race: Map

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