Guide to London’s Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race

Oxford And Cambridge Boat Race by London Perfect

LONDON, ENGLAND: The Oxford men’s crew (L) lead The Cambridge men’s crew (R) during The Boat Race on April 2, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images; courtesy of The Boat Race)

There’s something delightfully British about a rowing race—especially when it’s between Oxford and Cambridge—two of the United Kingdom’s oldest rival universities. Every year, The Boat Race (yes, that’s the official name of the event) is watched by thousands of spectators both in person and on TV. The event has become a symbol of London’s high society and sporting excellence. If you’re lucky enough to visit during the event, you’ll be in for a treat. Here’s everything you need to know about London’s Oxford and Cambridge boat race.

What is The Boat Race?

The Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race is a major London sporting event between the rowing teams of the two most prestigious universities in the United Kingdom. Each team competes side-by-side in eight-oared rowing boats. The race takes place on the River Thames between Putney Bridge and Chiswick Bridge. (It covers 4.25 miles.) There is both a Women’s Boat Race and a Men’s Boat Race. They both take place on the same day and on the same course. Spectators line the river to watch and it’s also a televised event.

The first Men’s Boat Race dates back to 1829 and took place in Henley on Thames. (It basically started off as a playful challenge between school friends.) After 185 years of competing, The Boat Race is one of the oldest sporting events in the world and acts as a battle for the ultimate bragging rights.

When is The Boat Race?

The Boat Race usually takes place in the period around the Easter break. The weather can be iffy, but with a little luck, it will be a lovely spring day filled with flowers—instead of showers. This year, the big event takes place on Sunday, March 26, 2023. The Women’s Boat Race starts at 4 p.m. and The Men’s Boat Race starts at 5 p.m. (Each race usually takes around 20 minutes.) Both races will be broadcast live on BBC1. Also, you can live stream the races on the BBC Sport website and on BBC iPlayer. If you won’t be in London for the big event, there are plenty of other sporting events to check out in London all year long.

Oxford And Cambridge Boat Race by London Perfect

LONDON, ENGLAND: Spectators gather on Hammersmith Bridge prior to The Boat Race on April 2, 2017, in London, England. (Photo by Alex Broadway/Getty Images; courtesy of The Boat Race)

Where Is The Boat Race?

The event takes place on the River Thames in Southwest London. It’s a completely free event. The race starts at Putney Pier and ends at Chiswick Bridge. Thousands of fans line the riverbanks for the event. (Expect in excess of 250,000 people.) Also, there are a few fan areas. You can find official Fan Parks with TVs, street food and merchandise in Bishop’s Park in Fulham and Furnivall Gardens in Hammersmith. Both open at noon. The Hammersmith location will be the main spot.

How Do I Get To The Boat Race?

There are both Underground and Overground services available from the Putney Bridge Underground station, which sits within walking distance of the starting line. Get there early to make sure you get a good viewing spot. If you’re planning a springtime trip to London, you can easily reach The Boat Race via public transport from our centrally located London vacation rentals.

Oxford And Cambridge Boat Race by London Perfect

LONDON, ENGLAND : The Cambridge women’s crew celebrates winning The Women’s Boat Race on April 2, 2017, in London, England. (Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images; courtesy of The Boat Race)

What Else Do I Need To Know?

The Cambridge crews wear a lighter greenish blue and the Oxford crews wear dark blue. Pick a team and get in the spirit. (You may even feel inspired to visit the beautiful Oxford and Cambridge campuses on one of our day-trip tours.) You can buy official merchandise like branded wellington boots and fleeces in the fan areas. Also, you may want to bring an umbrella and a light jacket thanks to London’s (in)famously unpredictable weather.

Last year, Oxford won the men’s race (breaking Cambridge’s five year winning streak!) while Cambridge won the women’s race. In fact, Cambridge boasts 85 tiles while Oxford has 81. The record time for The Men’s Boat Race is 16 minutes 19 seconds, which was set by Cambridge in 1998. Our bet is on Oxford again this year, especially for the women’s team! Who will you be rooting for?

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