You’ve probably heard of the Oxford v Cambridge Boat Race, that one time a year when two big posh schools go head to head in a rowing race while people look on from Thamesside pubs in Fulham. Lockdown put a stop to the 2020 Oxbridge-off, which was due to take place on March 29. It was the first time the race had been cancelled since 1845 (other than during the First and Second World Wars).
But there WILL be an Oxford v Cambridge boat race this month – just not as you know it. Power2Inspire, a charity dedicated to improving inclusion in sport, is putting on a virtual boat race on Saturday June 13. Rowers including world champion Oliver Cook, Rio Paralympic champion Grace Clough and gold medallist Tom Ransley will race from their homes, on ergometers (that’s rowing machines to you and me), rowing a collective distance of 6,838 metres. Times will be recorded throughout to determine the winner. No, these aren’t the official Boat Race uni teams – they are a mix of Olympic and Paralympic champions, with former and current Boat Race squad members in the mix. But in a nod to the official event, the competing teams will be called ‘Oxford’ and ‘Cambridge’.
Speaking about the virtual race, Power2Inspire’s founder said, ‘I was a cox at Cambridge, and beyond, and when I saw the success of the Power2Inspire Inclusive Festivals – including badminton, hockey, tennis and golf – that we run, I was determined to find a way to make a rowing event with the same philosophy, to encourage people of different abilities to participate together. Seeing Olympic champions competing alongside talented club rowers inspires me. I want everyone to experience the good in sport, the fun, the camaraderie; to really enjoy taking part and watching at home.’
At 3pm on Saturday, viewers will be able to watch the rowers in action from home, with an option to donate to Power2Inspire. No standing in the cold by the Thames, no overpriced rosé, no sharing pub tables with Eton alumni. It might just be the best Boat Race yet.
The mch.london virtual boat race will take place on Saturday June 13, 3pm BST.
Find more virtual events taking place in London here.