THE OXFORD — CAMBRIDGE BOAT-RACECategory: Sport
The annual contest between the universities of Oxford and Cambridge is one of the greatest sporting events in the world. It is held on the River Thames at the end of March or in early April, the course being the 41/4 mile stretch of river between Putney and Mortlake. The time of the race varies between about midday and three o’clock. The race was first rowed at Henley in 1829, but was transferred to the present course in 1845. By 1966 Cambridge had won 61 times, Oxford 50 times, with one dead heat in 1877. It is watched by crowds on the riverbank, in boats, and at home on television. In rough weather the water can become very choppy at certain points along the course. The Cambridge boat sank in 1859, both crews sank in 1912, and Oxford sank in 1925 and 1951. In 1948, Cambridge set up a new record for the course—17 min. 50 sec.
All undergraduates who represent their universities in sporting contests are known as Blues. They are described as “having been awarded their Blue” and to signalize the fact they wear blue jackets called blazers, light blue for Cambridge and dark blue for Oxford. Journalists frequently refer to Cambridge crews and teams as “the Light Blues” and Oxford players as “the Dark Blues”. The Boat Race arouses, however, a far wider interest among the masses than other contests between Light and Dark Blues. The Boat Race is a London festival. By what strange process the thousands of Londoners who watch it decide whether to support Oxford or Cambridge or, as they invariably say, whether to “be” Oxford or Cambridge must remain forever a mystery. It is curious that the Boat Race is the one and only occasion when the existence of the two older Universities makes itself known to ordinary folk.
(Pattern of England by С. E. Eckersley and L. С. B. Seaman)
The Boat Race
Amid tremendous excitement the Oxford and Cambridge crews, rowing side by side, are just about to shoot Hammersmith Bridge.
This is the memorable race of 1952»
It is a bitterly cold day with a dull grey sky, and snow lying on the roof-tops. The keen wind that is blowing is whipping the surface of the River Thames into small waves.
In spite of these most unfavourable conditions you see the two crews rowing magnificently. Cambridge are on the left, and at the moment they seem to be a little in front.
Following the crews comes a small fleet of launches. Away on the left is the B.B.C. television barge. Umpires, commentators, journalists and spectators all crowd into the boats that follow closely this most exciting race.
From Hammersmith the crews have still over three miles to go to Mortlake and the finishing post. They fight it out stroke by stroke, and yard by yard. First Oxford is slightly ahead and then Cambridge.
At last, in a most dramatic and intensely exciting finish, after a race of nearly four and a half miles, Oxford wins by a few feet.
Both teams spent many months training for this great event. A glorious finish like this one makes all their work seem well worth while.
(A Bridge to English by A. F. Scott and Kathleen Box)
Cambridge Sinks but Race Goes On
The Cambridge University Boat Race crew sank in a heavy squall at Putney yesterday. Their boat was smashed beyond possibility of repair by tomorrow, when they meet Oxford. But the race will go on. Cambridge will row in their second boat.
Cambridge went down in high waves just off the boathouses, watched by a crowd on the bank which included the Oxford crew. They drifted down on to a large buoy in midstream to which a tug was attached. Six of them scrambled up the buoy on to the tug and the other three were picked out of the water by the following launch. The boat, spread- eagled across the buoy, was heavily battered before it drifted clear. Conditions were rough when Cambridge went out, but not impossible, and it was a sudden squall which blew up just after they started rowing which wrrecked them.
Before they had been going for a minute it was apparent that they would go down as the wind increased and blew the tide into white-topped waves. Cambridge disappeared into a wall of flying spray, and the cox appeared to be trying to steer inside the buoy to get toward the bank, but the boat became straddled. A crew which accompanied Cambridge on their row found safety on the concrete steps on the Middlesex side of the river, but they too, sank, trying to fight their way back across to the boat-house.
At the R.A.C. in London, where the crew are staying, Michael Sweeney, the Cambridge president said: “One man has a scratch on his leg, but we are all well. We are lucky to be so well.”