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The Boat Race was first raced by crews from Oxford and Cambridge University in 1829 and 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 nearly 200 years of rivalry and The Boat Race has become synonymous 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 prowess. 

The Men’s Boat Race

The origins of the Boat Race trace back to an encounter between two schoolfriends, Charles Wordsworth from Christ Church College, Oxford, and Charles Merivale from St John’s, Cambridge, during a holiday in Cambridge, where Wordsworth's father served as master of Trinity. Wordsworth's rowing excursion on the Cam sparked the idea of a challenge.

On February 10, 1829, a meeting of the Cambridge University Boat Club (CUBC) tasked Mr. Snow of St John’s with promptly writing to Mr. Staniforth of Christ Church, officially challenging the University of Oxford to a rowing match in London or its vicinity during the upcoming Easter break.

The inaugural Boat Race occurred on June 10, 1829, at Henley on Thames, with Oxford emerging as the clear victor. The winning boat from that race remains on display at the River & Rowing Museum in Henley.

For the subsequent 25 years, contests were sporadic, with the second race in 1836 taking place in London.

The Women's Boat Race

Founded in 1927, the Women's Boat Race commenced its intermittent races until the mid-1960s, culminating in its inaugural event on the Isis in Oxford.

Initially, the races were adjudicated based on "time and style" rather than direct competition, with both crews prohibited from the river simultaneously. From 1935 onwards, races evolved into formal contests covering 1000 yards or half a mile, held on the River Cam, the Isis, or on one occasion on the Tideway at Barnes.

Initially comprised solely of rowers from Newnham College, Cambridge, the team later expanded to include students from Girton upon the establishment of CUWBC. Despite this, Oxford dominated the early years, securing victory in all six races between 1930 and 1941.

The Henley Boat Races

The Henley Boat Races began as men's lightweight races in 1975 and enlarged to incorporate the Women's Boat Race and their reserve crew race from 1977 and the women's lightweight race from 1984.


From 2000 - 2007, the lightweight men added a race for their reserve crews, Nephthys (Oxford) and Granta (Cambridge) and from 2016 Nephthys and Granta raced again, sometimes on a different date or location to the main Henley Boat Races. A women's lightweight reserve race was held in 2012 prior to race day and was added to the race schedule from 2016.

The races in 2001 were moved to the Holme Pierrepont National Watersports Centre in Nottingham and in 2013 and 2018 to Dorney Lake owing to the inclement weather and/or flooding on the Thames.

In 2015, the Women's Boat Race moved further down the River Thames to the Tideway to take place as a combined men's and women's Boat Race. The lightweight races have taken place in London since 2019 (men) and 2020 (women) with 2024 heralding the first year that all four squads raced under one club, OUBC.

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