The Boat Race 2020: A Guide

By Matthew Pearson

All you could possibly ever need to know about The Boat Race 2020, including...

  • What it is
  • When it is
  • Where it is
  • What The Goat Race is
  • When that is
  • Where that is
  • And much much more...

What is The Boat Race 2020?

It’s this year’s iteration of the famous Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race. It’s sometimes called the University Boat Race, sometimes the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race. But you and I can call it, simply, The Boat Race.

And what is The Boat Race?

The Boat Race is an annual rowing race between the Oxbridge universities’ men’s and women’s boat clubs. It’s rowed by teams of eight and is taken very, very seriously. The men’s race traces its history back to 1829, and has been held annually since 1856. The women’s race was first introduced in 1927, and started being held annually from 1964. It wasn’t until 2015 that the two races were held in the same place and on the same day. Nowadays, both events are referred to collectively as The Boat Race. It’s got a whole load of history, it’s a fierce sporting rivalry, it’s quintessentially British and it takes place in London.

Where in London does it take place?

On the River Thames, of course. You probably could have guessed that. The course runs from Putney to Mortlake in West London, running from east to west along the river, traveling upstream. It’s known as The Championship Course and is just over 4 miles long, following an S shape with three main bends.

When is The Boat Race 2020 taking place?

The Boat Race 2020 is taking place on Sunday 29th March. The men’s event begins at 15.44, the women’s at 16.44.

Can I watch The Boat Race 2020 in person?

You absolutely can. Over a quarter of a million people watch the race in person each year, from either side of the Thames. Millions more watch it on television, where it’s broadcast by the BBC.

Where can I watch it from?

You’ve got option after option when it comes to perches from which to watch The Boat Race 2020. Each one offers something different, giving you a different stage of the stage, a different perspective on the unfolding battle. Putney Bridge offers great views of the starting line. You can watch the teams try to get an early advantage as they head up to The Fulham Bend. Then head over to Bishop’s Park to watch the rest of the race on the big screen. Later on in the race, Hammersmith Bridge and Chiswick Pier offer good vantage points from which to see the rowers. At these mid-points, the crews make decisive moves to try and put this thing to (river) bed. If you want to see one team snatch glory, try the Emanuel School Boathouse or Dukes Meadow. These two are towards the end of the race, so you’ll see the whole thing decided. [caption id="attachment_6381" align="alignnone" width="1000"]

Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash[/caption]

Is there a fan park where I can watch the race on a big screen? You know, like with football?

You’ve got a couple of choices in this department too. And many of them are located close to viewing areas along the course. So, you can see some of it in real life. Then you can enjoy the rest on the big screen. First off, you’ve got Bishop’s Park. There’ll be a big screen, bars, food and funfair attractions. It’s located on the northern end of Putney Bridge, right bang at the start of the race. It’s free to enter, opens at noon, and wraps up around 18.30. Then there’s the Wainwright Fan Park, located in Hammersmith’s Furnivall Gardens. You can catch the teams IRL as they pass through the Hammersmith Bend. And you can catch them URL on the big screen, which’ll be broadcasting both races as covered by the BBC. It’s free to enter, family friendly and ideally situated just a 10 minute walk from Hammersmith Station. There’ll be plenty of street food to choose from and drinks provided by the Wainwright brewery. Soft drinks too. St Mary’s Church, close to the start of the race, is the ideal spot for families looking to enjoy the day together. They host The Boat Race 2020 Family Day from noon, with a big screen showing the BBC coverage, Boat Race-themed games for the kids, a bouncy castle, face painting, a barbecue and plenty of stalls. You can see the teams set off down The Thames from the church, located at the southern end of Putney Bridge. [caption id="attachment_6383" align="alignnone" width="1000"]

theboatrace.org[/caption]

Any other ways of getting involved?

Head to a pub. Plenty will be showing The Boat Race 2020 action unfold. There’s something deliciously enticing about sinking a couple of late-March pints whilst watching world class athletes compete. For our guide to the best sports pubs and bars in West London, get yourself over HERE.

Give me some stats...

In the men’s event, Oxford University Boat Club have won 80 of the bouts. Cambridge University Boat Club are ahead on 84. There was a dead heat too, way back in 1877. But more on that below. In the women’s race, Oxford University Women’s Boat Club have won 30 of the races so far, with Cambridge ahead there too, with 44 victories to date. The reigning champions, in both the men’s and women’s races, are Cambridge. The Cambridge men’s team are looking to make it three victories in a row at The Boat Race 2020, the women’s team are looking to make it four on the bounce. The course record in the men’s event was set in 1998. The time? 16 minutes, 19 seconds. The winners? Cambridge. The course record in the women’s event was set in 2017. The time? 18 minutes, 33 seconds. The winners? Cambridge. Basically, Cambridge are the team to beat at the moment, and can claim most of the main records going back. Still, it’s been a topsy-turvy contest between the two unis since the tradition started. Both have put together periods of dominance and come to seem unbeatable. Then they get beaten. That’s why it keeps the public interested, the viewers tuning in and the supporters turning up. [caption id="attachment_6382" align="alignnone" width="1000"]

theboatrace.org[/caption]

Anything else I should be aware of?It's a charitable event

The official charity of The Boat Race 2020 is the RNLI. All donations taken at the event benefit the Chiswick lifeboat crew. Funds raised go towards training and equipment for the Chiswick crew, helping them have the skills and kit they need to save lives on the Thames.

There's an alternative event that's really taken off in recent years

There is an alternative event taking place on the same date. It takes just a little inspiration from The Boat Race 2020. Its name? The Goat Race. Yes, The Goat Race is exactly what it sounds like. Two goats, one called Oxford, the other called Cambridge, in canoes, thrusting their way down the Thames—. No, unfortunately it’s a land race, goat on goat, with no oars necessary. It’s still a blast though. They run around a farm. It’s held at Spitalfields City Farm and raises money for said farm. It’s a pleasant day out too, with drinks and eats and everyone’s tongues firmly in their cheeks, fully aware they’ve chosen to do something with their Sunday that’s based solely on the quality of a punny name. To find out more, head HERE.

Boat Race is cockney rhyming slang for...

In cockney rhyming slang, ‘Boat Race’ means face. As in: “Are you going to watch The Boat Race 2020?” “Well, I’m pretty busy on Sunday 29th March 2020, what with The Goat Race and all, but maybe I’ll show my boat race.”

The dead heat

As mentioned above, there was once a dead heat in the men’s race. Both teams finished in 24 minutes, 8 seconds in poor weather. Stories persist that the race judge, John Phelps, was unable to call the result with any authority as he was over 70 and blind in one eye, and possibly biased against Oxford. Others conjure up tales of him being drunk under a bush when the teams finished. This is all probably untrue, and the result was more likely indicative of the fact the judge had no technology to assist him with his judgements.

There've been plenty of famous participants over the years

Famous sportsperson participants over the years have included Olympians Matthew Pinsent (Oxford 1990, 1991 and 1993) and James Cracknell (Cambridge 2019) who, at the age of 46, became the oldest competitor to take part in The Boat Race. Others to have taken part in The Boat Race include TV presenter and historian Dan Snow (for Oxford in 1999, 2000 and 2001), photographer and royal by marriage Lord Snowdon (for Cambridge in 1950) and the comedian and actor Hugh Laurie (for Cambridge in 1980). So, we reckon that’s all you could possibly need to know about The Boat Race 2020. Maybe a little more than you need to know about The Boat Race 2020. But if you have anything to add or ask, let us know in the comments below. Have you been before? And will you be turning out this year? Do you have a horse in the race? What’s your horse doing out there? It’s meant to be a race between human adults. Your horse can’t row can it? It can? WHAT.

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Vanessa Teo
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Vanessa Teo

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