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The Boat Race

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by Bryony Harrison (subscribe)
Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from
Rowing rivals meet again

The boat race between the UK's leading universities, Oxford and Cambridge has been bringing spectators to the Thames since 1829. It was set up by the nephew of the great poet, William Wordsworth. At first, the race was held on irregular dates, and did not happen every year. Now it is an annual Easter event, and the 31st of March will see the 159th competition take place. The teams compete in eight oared rowing boats, and it is a tough challenge - the course between Putney Bridge and Chiswick Bridge is just over four miles long - and requires lots of muscle and stamina. The teams start rigorous training from September, two to three times a day. Frankly, I don't know how they keep the pace for so long; it is quite amazing. If I had to do that much training on top of all my studies, my muscles would be too sore to move by Easter.

The Boat Race is one of the few free to watch sporting events, and is definitely the biggest. As well as being able to watch it from the comfort of your home, there are also several venues to watch the show being broadcast on large HD screens. By far, the most satisfying way to see the race, however, is live. Eleven designated spectator spots have been selected for people to gather and watch the action, including Putney Embankment, Thames Reach, Hammersmith Bridge, and of course the the start and finish lines.

The race kicks off at 4.30pm, but there will be events along the Thames all afternoon. These include the Oxbridge Watermen's Challenge and the Isis Goldie Race.

At the moment Cambridge lead 81 to 76. Can Oxford make a come back?

The men's BNY Mellon Boat Race is a massive British event, but we should not forget the fabulous women who also take part. On the 24th March, the Newton Women's Boat Race will take place at Henley-On-Thames. The first race between Oxford and Cambridge was in 1927, but it did not become a permanent fixture until the 1960s; even then, there was lots of opposition from men who thought women should not compete. But the girls proved that they are just as hardcore as the boys.

The race starts at 3pm, with other events happening throughout the day, such as the men & women's Intercollegiate races and the Osiris versus Blondie. Unfortunately there is not half as much coverage as for the men's event, and the only place to see the race is at the Temple Island Meadows finish line.
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Why? Fun for sports fans
When: 24th March Women's, 31st March Men's
Where: Along the Thames
Cost: Free
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