Dust off those blazers, dig out your school colours and brush up on that tenuous ancestral connection to Oxford or Cambridge University - it’s the 2019 men’s & women’s Boat Race. A time when Olympic standard rowers pretend to be students and compete in one of Britain’s most prestigious sporting clashes, hosted by the equally eminent Claire Balding. To avoid disappointment this year and unnecessarily traipsing up and down the river bank with your crew, here’s my top tips to ensure you’re not left blue in the face.
WHERE TO WATCH
With more than 250,000 set to line the banks of the River Thames, it’s important you plan in advance where you’ll watch the race. The action kicks off at Putney Bridge and the early stages can be caught in front of the boathouse on Putney Embankment. If you’re looking to catch the race later on, then position yourself on Hammersmith Bridge which offers great views of the crews as they come around the Surrey bend and head towards Chiswick Eyot (p.s. it’s pronounced ‘eight’).
WHAT TO WEAR
Spectator style is equally important as style out on the water, so pick your attire wisely. To ensure you don’t fall foul of Boat Race etiquette, I’d recommend one of our classic Oxfords (obviously in blue). Don’t worry, opting to wear this aptly named garment won’t give away any underlying allegiances! If you’re unlikely to enter the race as part of the men’s crew then I’d suggest the Pedham Chambray Shirt Dress, the Boat Race isn’t about just the men after all.
BOAT RACE JARGON
Don’t let fellow spectators bamboozle you with their knowledge on the Boat Race. Simply scan your eyes over the below jargon buster, or as I call it - ‘The Oxford, or Cambridge, Boat Race dictionary’:
Blue – the university colours awarded to those who take part in the Boat Race. Oxford's are dark blue, Cambridge's are light blue.
Stations – Crews must keep to their stations (or sides of the course) unless they have a lead of “clear water” when, if they wish, they can use the opposite station.
Middlesex station – The Fulham/Chiswick side of the course. Favoured during the start and finish of the race.
Surrey station – The Putney/Barnes side of the course. The ‘Surrey bend’ favours its crew for most of the middle of the race.
Stroke – Two meanings, the action of rowing and the stern most rower (who sets the rhythm and determines race tactics for the whole crew).
Foul – in the Boat Race, a clash or interference of one crew by the other, which materially affects the outcome of the race.
James Cracknell – At 46 he’s the oldest competitor in Boat Race History (old enough to be some of his teammate’s father).
The Boat Race wouldn’t be complete without a rain cloud or two. To ensure you’re not caught out when the heavens open, I’d recommend you take our Wells Classic Regatta Windbreaker. Whilst not necessarily designed for a torrential downpour, the windbreaker will keep you warm as you dash from Putney bridge to the pub. Which leads me on nicely…
Whilst no-one wants to see a boat sink, it’s likely you’ll want to sink a few pre, during and after the race. After a few too many sozzled years at the Boat Race, I’ve decided there’s three pubs you must have a pint in: The Blue Boat, The Blue Anchor and The Old Ship. Yes, I can see there’s a theme running here - all offer a spectacular riverside view and enough beer to sink a… rowing boat.
If you find yourself stuck for ideas next weekend, why not drop me a message on Instagram and I’ll pull together some oar-some (sorry, it had to be done) recommendations. Regardless of which side of the river you’ll be sitting on, the question has to be asked – which blue are you?