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LOCATION The River Thames, between Putney and Mortlake.

IN A NUTSHELL Watching brainy, muscular Oxbridge undergraduates and postgraduates battle it out on the river. There are worse ways to spend the day. 

HISTORY Every year the notorious boat race begins with the toss of an 1829 gold sovereign coin, which commemorates the origins of the race, and decides which side of the river the respective sides shall race. The boat race began after two school friends, Charles Wordsworth (nephew of the poet William Wordsworth), of Christ Church College, Oxford, and Charles Merivale of St. John’s, Cambridge, challenged one another to a race up the River Thames. Since 1836, the race has been held annually, apart from during the two World Wars and in 2020, when Covid-19 restrictions forced its cancellation.

The women’s boat race was founded a century after the men’s, in 1927. However, it continued intermittently until the mid-1960s, when it picked up recognition and continued to this day. Initially, the female Oxford and Cambridge sides were not allowed on the river simultaneously, and the race was judged purely on separate ‘times and style’.

FACTS Since 1856, the fastest winning time is 16 minutes and 19 seconds by Cambridge in 1998. The slowest winning time was almost 10 minutes longer, at 26 minutes and five seconds by Cambridge in 1860.