The Boat Race Through French Eyes

Hélène Rémond, whom most of you readers of this blog would recognise as a frequent contributor of thoughts, ideas, and written material, managed to persuade the editor-in-chief of the French newspaper where she is working, to send her to London to write an article about the famous British Boat Race between the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. I am happy to say that she also agreed to write a little report for H.T.B.S. (‘Hear The Boat Sing’). Thank you, Hélène, for both the nice article and photographs!

By now, all your H.T.B.S. readers have the information: Cambridge won the 156th Boat Race last Saturday, and against the odds, as the bookmakers predicted Oxford’s victory. Earlier posted entries on this blog give links to major articles in British newspapers, and the official website of the Boat Race is really comprehensive.

As correspondent for the French newspaper Ouest-France, I had convinced the Chief-editor of the Sunday edition (Dimanche Ouest-France) that the Boat Race was an event that could not be ignored and as I had planned to spend the Easter week-end in London, I was willing to write about it… In France, rowing is not given much coverage. Often, people confuse it with canoeing or kayaking. I am always very happy to participate in the promotion of the sport which exercises your whole body and which is so enthralling. Its history appeals to me. And the Boat Race is a British institution!

I am pleased to share my photos with you all. I arrived on Friday at the Media Centre, at the Thames Rowing Club in Putney. Near the Putney Bridge station, I came passed a park with a public notice announcing the Boat Race. It made me feel very enthusiastic to be in London to witness this special event. On Friday, the embankment was rather empty and calm although the Press Launch brought about a certain amount of journalists who were presented the Cambridge crew. It was an opportunity for me to photograph the rowers who were to become victorious the following day.

On the day of the race, as the beginning of the afternoon was approaching, there was an increasing number of people gathering along the Thames. As Tim Koch explains in the post entitled The Old Boat Race Course, the Hammersmith Bridge was open to the public this year and this is where I was to see the race and where I shot most pictures… It is amazing to witness this endurance test.

I asked Chris Dodd if he could explain to French readers the popular craze for the Boat Race as about 250.000 persons gather along the banks of the Thames. “Because it’s there. It’s a simple two-horse race that’s been around on the present course since the 1850s, and still has an amateur feel about it. Both universities have worldwide allegiances. And it is a good excuse to go the pub”, he smiles.

And when I asked the question to members of the public on the Hammersmith Bridge, they agreed it was a nice moment to share with friends and have a beer! Actually, the pubs – just like the rowing clubs at the start – are full to the brim. Tim refers to pubs, and I have come passed a few (and photographed the sign of the Old Ship), near the Furnivall Gardens, where a big screen presented the whole event. There was a real festival atmosphere, with music, and much liveliness. The good weather conditions made it all the more enjoyable: no April showers even if there was a good chance of some rain on Boat Race day according to the forecast.

More of Hélène’s photographs from the Boat Race will be posted tomorrow!

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