On Tuesday 15th March 1927, the very first Women’s Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge Universities was held on the River Isis in Oxfordshire. Crews of men from the two Universities had been competing since 1829 but this – 98 years later – was very different. In fact – one could say it was not an actual/real race.
The crews were not racing as the men did. The first difference was that the rowed course was a distance of about half a mile. The second was they were rowing separately – one after the other – so it wasn’t an actual race! They were judged on various aspects of style when they were rowing downstream and on speed when they rowed upstream. It wasn’t an easy task to base the competition on style and speed and more than once the judges couldn’t agree on who was the winner! They, therefore, decided to go by speed and Oxford won in 3 minutes 36 seconds, beating Cambridge by 15 seconds.
For the first race The Times reported that “large and hostile crowds gathered on the towpath” and The New York Times stated “a crowd of fully five thousand persons was on hand as a willing cheering section”
The next event – in 1929 – took place on the London Tideway. For the 1935 event the crews took to the river together for the first time. Oxford’s boat was sent off first with the Cambridge boat following thirty seconds later. In 1936 the race was on the Isis River and was the first to take place side by side.
Now they race together – well not quite ‘together’! This year the races will take place on Sunday 2nd April 2017 with the women’s race first up at 4.35pm with the men’s race following it at 5.35pm. If you want to see it but can’t get to the River Thames BBC One will televise both races, with Claire Balding set to present over two hours of coverage.