Helge Ivey

Written by Helge Ivey

Modified & Updated: 02 Mar 2024

Jessica Corbett

Reviewed by Jessica Corbett

Source: Theguardian.com

The University Boat Race is an iconic event that captures the attention of millions of people each year. It is a historic rowing competition held annually between the men’s and women’s rowing teams from Oxford and Cambridge universities. The race takes place on the River Thames in London and spans a distance of approximately 4.2 miles.

Since its inception in 1829, the University Boat Race has become a beloved sporting event, showcasing the strength, stamina, and determination of the athletes. It has evolved into a symbol of fierce rivalry between the two universities, with each team vying for victory and bragging rights.

In this article, we will delve into 15 fascinating facts about the University Boat Race, shedding light on its rich history, impressive records, and the incredible athletes who have competed in this prestigious event.

Key Takeaways:

  • The University Boat Race is a historic rowing competition between Oxford and Cambridge, with Cambridge winning the most races. It’s a prestigious event with a rich tradition and global recognition.
  • The race covers a distance of 4.2 miles along the River Thames, attracting over 250,000 spectators. It’s a fierce rivalry between the two universities, with a tradition dating back to 1829.
Table of Contents

The University Boat Race is an annual rowing event.

The University Boat Race is an iconic annual rowing competition held between the Oxford University Boat Club and the Cambridge University Boat Club. It has become one of the most prestigious and highly anticipated events in British sporting history.

The first University Boat Race took place in 1829.

The University Boat Race has a rich history that dates back to 1829 when the first race was held on the River Thames in London. Since then, it has become an enduring tradition, attracting both national and international attention.

Cambridge has won the most races in the history of the event.

Out of the 165 races that have taken place so far, Cambridge has emerged as the victor on 83 occasions, while Oxford has won 81 times. There has been 1 dead heat in the history of the race.

The race distance is approximately 4.2 miles.

The course for the University Boat Race stretches along the River Thames from Putney to Mortlake, covering a distance of about 4.2 miles (6.8 kilometers). The challenging course tests the endurance and skill of the rowers.

The race is traditionally held in late March or early April.

The University Boat Race takes place annually on a date agreed upon by both universities, usually in late March or early April. The timing allows for optimal river conditions and ensures a thrilling spectacle for spectators.

The tradition of tossing a coin decides the starting positions.

Prior to the race, a coin toss is conducted to determine which team gets to choose their starting position. The winning team can opt for either the Surrey station or the Middlesex station, depending on the tidal conditions and their strategic preferences.

Female rowers first competed in the race in 1927.

Although the University Boat Race was originally a male-only event, it was in 1927 that female rowers were given the opportunity to participate. Since then, the women’s race has grown in importance and popularity.

Over 250,000 spectators line the riverbanks to watch the race.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of keen spectators gather along the River Thames to catch a glimpse of the University Boat Race. The race has a dedicated following, and supporters cheer on their respective teams with great enthusiasm.

It is one of the oldest and most prestigious rowing competitions in the world.

The University Boat Race has rightfully earned its status as one of the oldest and most prestigious rowing competitions globally. It showcases the talent and dedication of the student-athletes from both Oxford and Cambridge.

The teams are known for their distinctive dark blue and light blue colors.

The Oxford University Boat Club competes in dark blue jerseys, while the Cambridge University Boat Club dons light blue jerseys. These distinct colors have become synonymous with the respective universities and their longstanding rivalry in the boat race.

The fastest recorded time was achieved by Cambridge in 1998.

Cambridge attained the fastest recorded time in the history of the University Boat Race in 1998, completing the course in just 16 minutes and 19 seconds. Their remarkable performance set a benchmark and showcased the athletic prowess of the team.

Average race times vary depending on the weather and river conditions.

The average race time for the University Boat Race fluctuates from year to year due to factors such as weather conditions and the strength of the river’s current. On average, the race tends to take around 18 to 20 minutes to complete.

Both universities have had notable individuals participate in the race.

Over the years, the University Boat Race has seen the participation of numerous accomplished individuals. From Olympic gold medalists to future world leaders, the race has attracted talented athletes and remarkable individuals from both Oxford and Cambridge.

The rivalry between the two teams is intense and longstanding.

The University Boat Race is not just a competition between two rowing teams; it is a fierce rivalry between two esteemed academic institutions. The longstanding tradition and fierce competition fuel the intensity and excitement surrounding the event each year.

The University Boat Race has gained global recognition.

The University Boat Race has transcended its status as a national event and gained global recognition. It is broadcasted to millions of viewers worldwide, allowing people from all corners of the globe to witness the intensity and passion of this historic sporting event.


The University Boat Race is not only a fiercely competitive sporting event but also a cultural phenomenon in its own right. From its humble beginnings in 1829 to its current status as one of the most anticipated annual events on the British sports calendar, the Race has a rich and fascinating history.

From the iconic Thames course to the intense rivalry between Oxford and Cambridge, the University Boat Race captivates both sports enthusiasts and casual spectators alike. The dedication, teamwork, and skill exhibited by the rowers is truly impressive, and the atmosphere surrounding the event is electric.

Whether you’re a fan of rowing, interested in British traditions, or simply enjoy witnessing thrilling sports competitions, the University Boat Race is a must-watch event. So gather your friends, don your university colors, and join in on the excitement of this historic and prestigious race.


1. How long is the University Boat Race course?

The University Boat Race course is approximately four miles and 374 yards (6.8 kilometers) long, stretching along the River Thames in London.

2. How many people participate in the event?

Each team consists of eight rowers and one coxswain, making a total of 18 participants in the race.

3. When is the University Boat Race held?

The race takes place annually on the last Sunday of March or the first Sunday of April, depending on the tides.

4. Which universities compete in the Boat Race?

The University Boat Race is contested between the rowing teams of the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge.

5. How can I watch the University Boat Race?

The race is broadcasted live on television and can also be viewed from various vantage points along the River Thames, such as Putney Embankment and Hammersmith Bridge.

6. Who holds the record for the most wins in the University Boat Race?

Oxford holds the title for the most victories with 80 wins, while Cambridge has won 85 times as of 2021.

7. Is the University Boat Race only for undergraduate students?

No, the race is open to all students of the participating universities, including postgraduates.

8. Can women participate in the University Boat Race?

Yes, both Oxford and Cambridge have women’s rowing teams that compete in their respective boat races on the same course as the men’s race.

9. Is there a prize for winning the University Boat Race?

Aside from the prestige and recognition, the winning team is awarded the coveted title and the right to celebrate their victory in style.

10. Are there any traditions associated with the University Boat Race?

Yes, some notable traditions include the coin toss for the station’s advantage and the Bumps race, where teams attempt to overtake each other in a series of races leading up to the main event.

Was this page helpful?

Our commitment to delivering trustworthy and engaging content is at the heart of what we do. Each fact on our site is contributed by real users like you, bringing a wealth of diverse insights and information. To ensure the highest standards of accuracy and reliability, our dedicated editors meticulously review each submission. This process guarantees that the facts we share are not only fascinating but also credible. Trust in our commitment to quality and authenticity as you explore and learn with us.