Join the crowds and line the four-and-a-quarter mile course from Putney to Mortlake on Sunday March 27 2016 to catch all the Boat Race action. Even if you're just interested in the sunshine and socialising, here’s our ultimate boat race crib sheet, filling you in on ten key facts you need to know about the annual event.
CHECK THIS OUT: Where to watch the Boat Race
Ten facts about the Boat Race
Ladies first (finally)
This year, for the first time ever, The Newton Women’s Boat Race will take place on the same day as the men's and be held on the same course (the women's race has previously taken place in Henley). Founded in 1927, it wasn't until the 60s that the race became an annual fixture and, even by then, the participtating female rowers faced abuse and ciritism from their male couterparts. Hoping to promote positive attitudes towards women in sport, the Women's Boat Race will start at 4.50pm, an hour before the men's race, and will be broadcast live on BBC television.
It's over in a splash
The men's race doesn’t last very long; the record, set by Cambridge in 1998, is 16min 19sec. But the atmosphere will be building up along the course all day and your riverside walk, lingering lunch or extended session in the pub will be crowned by a sighting of one of the capital’s great sporting events.
A good start
The rowing clubs’ presidents toss a coin (an 1829 gold sovereign) for the right to pick which side of the river they row on. Choosing the Middlesex station means an advantage on the first and final sections of the race; the Surrey station has the advantage round the long middle bend. Don’t worry, the traditional terms ‘Middlesex’ station and ‘Surrey’ station signify nothing to most people, but in the lingo of some Londoners, Middlesex means the north bank of the river and Surrey, the south.
An oar-some view
The towpath along Putney embankment is a great viewing location because there’s a long, clear view of the race in both directions.
If you’re watching from the water’s edge, don’t get too caught up in the excitement. Following the competing eights is a dramatic procession of other vessels – the umpires’ launch, the camera boats, the Port of London Authority boat and the Marine Support Unit. Between them, they create a wash big enough to give the unwary a serious soaking.
It's not all plain sailing
A major part of the umpire’s role is keeping the crews apart as each fight for the best racing line. In 2012, the umpire stopped the men's race after a rogue swimmer appeared in the race path. The race was restarted with the crews level, however, shortly after the restart, Oxford broke an oar and Cambridge went on to take the win. Umpires are always old ‘Blues’ and will sometimes wear a colour, often a cap, that reveals which university they rowed for.
That sinking feeling...
Sinking is not as rare an occurrence as you might think. If a crew is going to sink, the final stretch after Barnes Bridge is the likeliest place. Due to a strong wind meeting the incoming tide, which creates dangerously choppy water, the Cambridge boys went down in that exact spot in 1978.
A floody nightmare
In 1898 Cambridge was waterlogged but still finished the race. Oxford sank in 1925, and in 1951, before the race had even started, thanks to a howling gale. And in 1912 both boats sank and the race had to be rescheduled for the following day.
Water off a cox’s head
The Boat Race tradition of dunking the winning cox takes place on the north bank by the Mortlake Anglian and Alpha Boat Club after the winning crew has been presented with the trophy.