Women's Boat Race

The Women's Boat Race is an annual rowing race between Cambridge University Women's Boat Club and Oxford University Women's Boat Club. First rowed in 1927, the race has taken place annually since 1964. Since the 2015 race it has been rowed on the same day and course as the men's Boat Race on the River Thames in London, taking place around Easter, and since 2018 the name "The Boat Race" has been applied to the combined event. The race is rowed in eights and the cox can be of any gender.

The Women's Boat Race
The Cancer Research UK Boat Race
Contested by
First boat race 15 March 1927[1]
First side-by-side race 1936[2]
Annual event since 1964[3]
Current champion Cambridge
Course record Cambridge, 2017 (18 min 33 sec)[4]
Current course The Championship Course
River Thames, London (2015 onwards)[5]
Course length 4.2 miles (6.8 km)[5]
Sponsor Newton Investment Management (since 2011)[6][7]
Official charity Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI)[8]
Trophy The Women's Boat Race Trophy (since 2014)[9]
Previous courses Henley (1977 to 2014 except 2013 on Dorney Lake);[10][11]
The Isis, Oxford and River Cam, Cambridge (1927 to 1976 with several gaps);[12]
River Thames, London (1929, 1935)[12][13][14]
Number of wins[3]
Cambridge Oxford
44 30
Official website

The course covers a 4.2 miles (6.8 km) stretch of the Thames in West London, from Putney to Mortlake. Members of both crews are traditionally known as blues and each boat as a "Blue Boat", with Cambridge in light blue and Oxford dark blue. As of 2019 Cambridge have won the race 44 times and Oxford 30 times. Cambridge has led Oxford in cumulative wins since 1966. The women's race has received television coverage and grown in popularity since 2015, attracting a television audience of 4.8 million viewers that year.[15][16][17] The 2019 race was won by Cambridge by five lengths.


Early years

The first women's rowing event between Oxford and Cambridge was held on 15 March 1927 on The Isis in Oxford.[1] This was not solely a race in the years up to 1935, the two boats were not on the river together and were judged on both their speed and their "steadiness, finish, rhythm and other matters of style". 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".[12][18] The race covered a distance of approximately 12 mile (0.80 km) over which the crews were judged on their style while rowing downstream and their speed while rowing back upstream.[19] Reports differ as to the judges' opinions on style: one suggests they failed to agree on a winner,[19] another indicates that they deemed the style of each crew to be equal.[20] As a result, the judges based their decision on speed:[19] the race was won by Oxford in a time of 3 minutes 36 seconds, beating Cambridge by 15 seconds.[1]

The next event in 1929 took place on the Tideway in London.[13] At the 1935 race, after two intervening events, the crews took to the river together for the first time. Racing on the Thames in London Oxford's boat was sent off first with the Cambridge boat following thirty seconds later.[14] The 1936 race, held on The Isis, was the first to take place side by side.[2] Later, the location alternated between the River Cam in Cambridge and The Isis, over a distance of about 1,000 yards.[12][21][22] Unlike the men's race, the women's continued in most years through the Second World War.[13]

The Cambridge University Women's Boat Club was founded in 1941 when Girton College became the second women's college to cater for rowing. Until that year Cambridge was represented by Newnham College Boat Club. The first blues were awarded in 1941 when CUWBC raced against Oxford University Women's Boat Club, which had been founded in 1926.[23][24] All of the Cambridge rowers in 1941 were members of Newnham College. The following year the first non-Newnham rower competed.[13][25]

In training after the 1952 race, Oxford rowed over a weir and was banned from the river. Both OUWBC and later CUWBC suffered from lack of funds and the race fell into abeyance. After a 12-year gap, the race restarted in 1964 and has been held annually since. The number of women rowers increased as more colleges started to admit women and reserve boats from each university began racing in 1966, the year after the men's reserve boats began racing. A second reserve race was run in 1968, and the reserves have raced annually since 1975.[26][27] The women's reserve boats were later named Osiris (Oxford) and Blondie (Cambridge).[28]

Henley Boat Races

In 1975 the men's lightweight race started at Henley-on-Thames and the women's Boat race was relocated there in 1977 creating the Henley Boat Races.[12][23] At Henley the race took place over a distance of 2,000 metres.[29]

The First VIII receive university blues, and is therefore more commonly known as the Blue Boat, with Cambridge in light blue and Oxford dark blue. While the crew is all female, the cox can be male or female.[30] The Second VIII receives university colours.[31] The 2011 race was the first to be sponsored by Newton Investment Management, a subsidiary of BNY Mellon. Previously the crews had no sponsorship and were self funded. Newton have remained the sponsor since then and increased the amount of funding significantly.[6][17]

For the 2013 race the entire Henley Boat Races was moved to Dorney Lake because of flooding on the river.[32][33] Oxford won the 2014 race on the Henley course having beaten Cambridge by a distance of four boat lengths over two kilometres.[34] A newly designed trophy, to replace the existing wooden shield,[35] was awarded to the Oxford president by Olympic gold medallist Sophie Hosking who had won the Women's lightweight double sculls at the 2012 Summer Olympics.[9][36]

The Boat Races

On 11 April 2015 the 70th women's race was held on The Championship Course on the same day as the traditional male event for the first time.[37][38] The course covers a 4.2 miles (6.8 km) stretch of the Thames in West London, from Putney to Mortlake.[5] Rebranded as "The Boat Races", the combined event was broadcast on national television in UK, during which the audience for the women's race reached 4.8 million viewers.[15][39][40] OUWBC won by six and half lengths that year.[41] The Reserves race also moved to the Championship Course in 2015, running on the day prior to the main race. In 2016 all four men's and women's boat races took place on the same day and course for the first time. Cancer Research UK were gifted the title sponsorship rights by BNY Mellon and Newton Investment Management, an arrangement which continued for the following two years.[7][42][43] The 2016 race, again receiving national television coverage, was won by Oxford while the Cambridge boat nearly sank in the rough conditions.[44][45][46]

The 2017 race took place on Sunday 2 April at 16:35 British Summer Time, an hour before the men's race.[47] Cambridge won for the first time in five years after Oxford caught a crab at the start. They set a record on the new course, beating the time first set on this course in 2015 by over a minute.[4][48] The time was faster, in different conditions, than the Cambridge men's Blue Boat in 2016 and the Oxford men's in 2014.[49] Beginning with the 2018 race, the combined event was branded simply as "The Boat Race", consisting of "The Women's Boat Race" and "The Men's Boat Race".[50] The 2019 race was Cambridge's third consecutive victory and the fourth consecutive victory for their reserve boat, Blondie.[51]

The race has been won 44 times by Cambridge and 30 times by Oxford, with Cambridge leading Oxford in cumulative wins since 1966. The reserves race has been won 27 times by Cambridge and 20 times by Oxford, with Cambridge leading in cumulative wins since the inception of the race.[3]


Women's Boat Race

  • Cambridge: 44 wins
  • Oxford: 30 wins


– The events until 1935 were not run solely as races, but were also judged on style merit marks. The crews were not allowed to be on the river at the same time so each eight rowed separately downstream and were judged on style. They then rowed back upstream to record a time.[2]
– The course was shortened in 2007 due to rough water during the Henley Boat Races. It was reduced from 2,000 m (1.2 mi) to less than 1,500 m (0.9 mi) with the start between the Upper Thames Rowing Club and Old Blades.[11]

Women's Reserves (Osiris vs Blondie)

  • Cambridge: 27 wins
  • Oxford: 20 wins


See also


  1. "Boat Race Practice – An Oxford victory". The Times. 16 March 1927. p. 7.
  2. "First ever women's event from 88 years ago was rather different to modern day". The Telegraph. 10 April 2015. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  3. "Boat Race – Results – Women". The Boat Race Company Limited. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  4. "Boat Races: Oxford triumph in men's race after Cambridge women win". BBC Sport. 2 April 2017. Retrieved 2 April 2017.
  5. "The Course". The Boat Race Company Limited. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  6. Morrissey, Helena (4 April 2015). "Helena Morrissey: 'Tide turns in favour of boat race women'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  7. "Partners". The Boat Races. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  8. "RNLI". The Boat Race. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  9. Mahoney, Lizzie (19 February 2014). "New Women's Boat Race trophy unveiled". The Cambridge Student. Retrieved 16 April 2015.
  10. "History". Henley Boat Races. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
  11. "Henley Boat Races 2007". CUWBC. 2 April 2007. Retrieved 18 April 2015.
  12. "Pulling Together". Cambridge Alumni Magazine (74 Lent 2015): 12. Retrieved 19 March 2015.
  13. "A brief history of the Oxford-Cambridge Varsity event – from the perspective of women". The Telegraph. 13 March 2015. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  14. "University women's race women's success". The Times. 18 March 1935. p. 6.
  15. "Boat race viewing figures delight BBC as 4.8m watch women's event". The Guardian. 12 April 2015. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  16. "Women's Boat Race 2015: equality will be true winner of historic meeting". The Guardian. 10 April 2015. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  17. "The real reason the women's Boat Race is closing in? Deep pockets". The Telegraph. 20 March 2015. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  18. "Origins - The Women's Boat Race: The Early years". The Boat Race Company Limited. Retrieved 31 March 2016.
  19. "Women's Boat Race – Confetti, Streamers, and Toy Trumpets". Western Daily Press. 16 March 1927. p. 5.(subscription required)
  20. "Women's Boat Race at Oxford – a novel competition". Cheltenham Chronicle. 19 March 1927. p. 11.(subscription required)
  21. Howard, Philip (13 March 1973). "Nine girls in a boat beat Oxford". The Times. p. 4.
  22. Railton, Jim (15 March 1974). "Most exciting Boat Race for a decade". The Times. p. 13.
  23. "Race History". Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club. Retrieved 18 April 2015.
  24. "Results". Henley Boat Races. Retrieved 18 April 2015.
  25. "Crew Lists 1940s". Cambridge University Women's Boat Club 1941 - 2014. 7 February 2015. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  26. "Over The Years - Early Troubles for the Women". The Boat Race Company Limited. Archived from the original on 1 April 2016. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
  27. "Pulling together - a history of women's rowing in Cambridge". University of Cambridge. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  28. Savva, Anna (24 March 2018). "Why the Oxford reserve boat is called Isis". Cambridge News. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  29. "About Henley Boat Races". Henley Boat Races. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
  30. "Male Cambridge women´s cox inspired by 'more exciting' Boat Race crew". Mail Online. 1 April 2017. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
  31. "About the Club". Cambridge University Women's Boat Club. Retrieved 18 April 2015.
  32. "History". Oxford University Women's Boat Club. Retrieved 18 April 2015.
  33. "Clean sweep for Oxford over Cambridge at Henley Boat Races at Dorney Lake". The Telegraph. 24 March 2013. Retrieved 18 April 2015.
  34. "Women's Boat Race: Oxford beat Cambridge by four lengths". BBC Sport. 30 March 2014. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  35. Rock, Lucy (30 March 2014). "Women rowers catch up with men at the Boat Race". The Observer. Retrieved 18 April 2015.
  36. "Sophie Hosking, Bio, Stats and Results". Sports Reference. Retrieved 16 April 2015.
  37. "Women's Sport Pioneers: The Women's Boat Race". BBC Sport. 3 March 2015. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  38. "Oxford, Cambridge & the fight for equality". BBC Sport. 9 April 2015. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  39. "Boat Races 2015: Oxford v Cambridge: as it happened". The Telegraph. 11 April 2015. Retrieved 26 July 2016.
  40. "The Boat Races 2015". BBC Sport. 11 April 2015. Retrieved 26 July 2016.
  41. "Boat Races 2015: Oxford women and men beat Cambridge". BBC Sport. 11 April 2015. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  42. "Annual Report and Accounts 2015/16" (PDF). Cancer Research UK. 2016. p. 18. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
  43. "The Boat Races sponsors BNY Mellon & Newton pull together for Cancer Research UK". The Boat Race Company Limited. 19 January 2016. Retrieved 5 February 2016.
  44. "Boat Race: Cambridge triumph after Oxford's women win". BBC Sport. 27 March 2016. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  45. "Oxford win Women's Boat Race as Cambridge struggle with sinking boat". The Guardian. 27 March 2015. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  46. "The Boat Race 2016: Cambridge win the Boat Race against Oxford but their women's boat nearly sinks". The Telegraph. 27 March 2016. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  47. "The 2017 Cancer Research UK Boat Races Presidents are elected". The Boat Race Company Limited. 27 June 2016. Retrieved 26 July 2016.
  48. "The Boat Races 2017". BBC Sport. 2 April 2017. Retrieved 2 April 2017.
  49. "Results – Men – Blue Boats". The Boat Race Company Limited. Retrieved 2 April 2017.
  50. "The Cancer Research UK Boat Race 2018". The Boat Race. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  51. "Boat Race 2019: Cambridge beat Oxford in both men's and women's races". 7 April 2019. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  52. Kingsbury, Jane; Williams, Carol (2015). Cambridge University Women's Boat Club 1941-2014 - The Struggle Against Inequality. Trireme. ISBN 9780993098291.

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