For those still suffering from Summer Olympics withdrawal (NO JUDGMENT HERE), the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race was a delightful way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Determined to finally attend said boat race in London (and determined not to spend the entire long weekend indoors), I accompanied one of my favorite fellow Canadians-in-the-UK to the Tideway Scullers Boat Club, perched opportunely by Chiswick Bridge with a clear view of the race finish line (finish…area?) FULL DISCLOSURE: the aforementioned friend attended Oxford University, and the boat club had been rented by Oxford students. I also spent a month doing a summer course at Oxford a few years ago, and own both a university sweatshirt AND a t-shirt. So I may have gone into the whole thing with a clear favorite, which I freely admit now that it’s all over and Oxford pulled off a clean win in every single race. But good effort all around, guys!!
This race was apparently pretty straightforward – no one jumping in the Thames in protest, no one passing out, no clashing oars (last year would’ve been the race to watch for that kind of head-scratching excitement). Despite the weather, crowds lined the banks with ‘Which Blue Are You?’ paraphernalia, and the atmosphere was fantastic. Because we had the room rented out, we were able to watch the boats set off from Putney on TV and then dart out to the balcony to see the finish live in person. Chants of ‘Oxxxforddd!!’ bounced off the water and appeared to make the win all the sweeter for both winning Oxford teams, exhausted but pumping their fists in the air. It was incredible to watch, and just IMAGINING the effort that goes into the whole process – from the 6am training sessions, to braving winter weather, to the mental preparation to the physical exertion – makes you want to throw yourself down on the nearest couch. I also thought it was really neat how international the rowing teams were – the Oxford Blues even had a Canadian on board!
Here are some race tidbits I picked up from my friend and her enthusiastic bunch of Oxfordian rowing fans:
– the ‘main’ boat race is between the Oxford men’s team (Dark Blues) and the Cambridge men’s team (Light Blues). The men’s reserve teams (Isis, after a section of the Thames River which flows through Oxford, and Goldie, the name of a Cambridge hero in 19th century rowing lore) race first
– the left side of the river is known as ‘Surrey’ and the right side as ‘Middlesex’. That’s one to Google…
– the women’s races usually take place earlier at Henley, another prime rowing location, but starting in 2015 they’ll happen on the same day as the men’s and in London – hurrah for equality!
– the ‘cox’ is someone who sits in the back of the boat, yelling directions to the team in colorful language that is broadcast straight out to TV viewers, causing the BBC presenter to chuckle embarrassedly. Sorry folks, never know what to expect from those wild coxes (coxi?!)
– the winning cox gets launched into the Thames after the race. Going to take being sprayed with something a lot stronger than Champagne to send those germs packing!