March 15 2023
Every year in the London Boat Race, Cambridge and Oxford go head to head on the Thames in the most anticipated university rowing race of the year.
Experience the thrill of watching one of the world’s oldest sporting traditions, the London Boat Race. Oxford and Cambridge university rowing crews have been racing to be the first across the line since 1829. And the race has had its moments of controversy over the years. There was a sleeping judge in 1877, the Cambridge team boat sank completely in 1978 and there was a clashing of oars in 1980.
There have also been some famous names in the boats. Lord Snowdon coxed for Cambridge in 1950, and the actor Hugh Laurie rowed for Cambridge in 1980. Held on the River Thames in London, cheering spectators on the riverside and bridges, the race is broadcast across the globe.
Crews from two of the UK’s oldest universities, Oxford and Cambridge, compete in a 4.2-mile rowing race. The course is usually on the River Thames, but in 2021 it was held on the River Ouse in Ely because of London pandemic restrictions. Both men’s and women’s teams compete in a race famous for its fierce rivalry. London Boat Race usually takes place on the first or second Saturday in April each year and has done since 1856, for the men. The first women’s race was in 1927.
The 4.2-mile London Boat Race route runs upstream on the Championship Course, from Putney to Mortlake along the River Thames, with a strong current adding an extra level of difficulty. It passes under Hammersmith Bridge and Barnes Bridge and finishes just short of Chiswick Bridge.
The competition between the Oxford and Cambridge rowing crews has become increasingly close. Cambridge currently leads overall by 85 wins to Oxford’s 80 in the men’s race. The Cambridge women’s team lead Oxford 45 to 30.
The London Boat Race is an all-day event based around the Putney boathouses, with the women’s boats racing in the afternoon and the men’s in the evening. You can watch the race from the riverside at designated spectator spots or from one of three bridges that cross the river on the route. Although they fill up very early. Putney Bridge just before the course gives you the fresh-faced crews powering off the start. Hammersmith Bridge is halfway along the route and Barnes Bridge gives you a view of the finish line.
On the all-important bend just after the halfway point is the official fan park at Furnivall Gardens. It buzzes with excitement as fans and supporters crane to see which crew is in the lead, Oxford in dark blue colours or Cambridge in duck-egg blue. There are big screens showing the live BBC coverage and an electric atmosphere.
The Crabtree pub has a large terrace and garden overlooking the Thames The Blue Anchor and The Rutland also have outdoor seating, although you need to get up and move riverside to see the boats go by.
After all that riverside action, we’re here to give you a great night’s sleep. Stay at one of our Central London hotels, Thistle Trafalgar Square, Thistle Kensington Gardens or Thistle Piccadilly just a short distance away so you can cheer on your favourite crew and enjoy the best of London.