Which Blue are you? Cambridge and Oxford prepare to battle it out on the Thames during historic boat race

The sun will be shining, the Pimms will be flowing and the crowds will be roaring when the 161st Boat Race sets sail in Putney tomorrow.

The annual sporting insitituion, already steeped in history, will be making waves for all the right reasons this year when for the first time the women’s teams will be racing the same tideway on the same day.

At the team weigh in Clare Balding, the grand dame of British sport, spoke of her decision to forgo the Grand National, an event for which she has become synonomous, to attend the boat race.

She said: “There was a big decision to make. But there will never be another first women’s Boat Race on the Tideway.

“This will have a ripple effect all across society, business and sport.”

The tradition was started in 1829 by Charles Merivale of St John’s College, Cambridge, and his friend Charles Wordsworth from Christ Church, Oxford.

Cambridge challenged Oxford to a race at Henley-on-Thames but lost and so the fiercest rivalry in British sporting history was born between the light blues (Cambridge) and the dark blues (Oxford).

The 4.2 mile course takes in a plethora of London landmarks between Putney Bridge and Chiswick Bridge, including the Harrods depository, St Paul’s School and Chiswick Pier.

An 1829 gold sovereign coin is tossed by the Rowing Club Presidents of each team to determine which side of the river they will row on.

The Middlesex station (North) has the advantage on the first and last bends, while the Surrey station boasts a smoother ride for the longer middle stretch.

In its time, the good old-fashioned grudge match has seen plenty of controversies and disasters.

Cambridge managed to finish the 1898 race despite being waterlogged, and in 1951 Oxford sank before the race even began thanks to howling gale force winds.

In 1912 adverse weather conditions caused both boats to sink, forcing the umpire to reschedule the race for the following day.

While in 2012 the race had to be halted when an anti-elitist protestor swam into the race path.

In its 160 year history Cambridge has beaten Oxford 81-78 with only one dead heat recorded in 1877.

In a contest between two oarsmen of equal skill and weight, as long as it’s muscle, has long been believed to give an advantage.

The Cambridge men’s crew not only stands two inches taller than Oxford but they’re also not far off a stone a man heavier.

However Oxford is tipped to win both the men’s and women’s races this year, despite having lighter crews and having fewer former blues than their rivals.

With plenty of pubs, cafes and vantage points the scene is set for an epic race, all that’s left to decide is which Blue are you?

Picture courtesy of Supermac1961, with thanks

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