The Boat Race: Preview


Oxford take on Cambridge for the 160th annual event.


By Jack Miller

One of the greatest events in the British sporting calendar returns to South West London on Sunday afternoon, as Oxford and Cambridge contest the annual Boat Race.

The 160th running of the event sees the light and dark blue crews battle it out on the stretch of the Tideway between Putney and Mortlake.

The rivalry between the two institutions is still fierce, something that both crews know all too well, but they have made it clear they are only focusing on themselves ahead of the race.

“I don’t think you could be in this race if you weren’t aware of the rivalry,” said Oxford Boat Club President Malcolm Howard. “We’re very focused on what we do as a crew, but we are always aware of it.

“They are my opposition. That would be the simplest way to put it. I don’t picture them any different to any other opponent. 

“You have to focus on what you have to do and that there is a crew over there that is trying to beat you.”

Steve Dudek, Cambridge Boat Club President, agreed that self-reflection was more important than the rivalry in terms of success. 

He said: “That rivalry is part of what defines CUBC. It’s such a binary thing – it’s Oxford and Cambridge, not a regatta with 18 different crews. 

“But in terms of what they do and how it affects us, you control the controllable and you leave everything else to happen, so from that respect we are not too concerned about them.”

The two coxswain’s were also full of fighting talk, with neither refusing to rule out the chance of the boats clashing on the river on Sunday.

Cambridge’s contentious victory in 2012, when Oxford lost a blade in an aggressive clash of oars after the race had to be restarted, was a stark reminder to everyone that confrontation in the race has its consequences.

“There’s always a likelihood of clashing as that’s the nature of the race,” said Cambridge cox Ian Middleton. “There may be clashes and there may not be. I’m not going out there looking to pick a fight, but it may happen as the crews push for the best water.”

Oxford cox Laurence Harvey shared a similar attitude. He said: “Obviously you want a good clean race, but I think we are prepared for any eventuality with clashing.”

The weather is always a vital part of the competition, where big headwinds and large waves can change the entire nature of the race, but this year there was an added twist in the form of the smog cloud that hit London last week.

Both crews however admitted they were unfazed by talk of pollution in the air, with neither crew noticing a difference in practise.

Oxford coach Sean Bowden said: “No-one’s even noticed it. The crew have been rowing every day and not mentioned it, so maybe Putney is a nice healthy bubble?”

Howard added: “I didn’t even know about it until my mum emailed me asking about the pollution. I had no idea.”

The current standings see Cambridge ahead with 81 wins, and Oxford just four behind with 77. Oxford’s will hope to continue their form from recent years, having won nine of the last fourteen races.

The race begins at Putney Bridge an hour before the high tide, when the crews will be rowing with the fastest possible current, at 5.55pm on Sunday.

Photo courtesy of Pointillist, with thanks. 

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