Tim Koch: Boat Race Day Picture Diary

The river is one of the few things in the Boat Race that has not altered much since this engraving was made in 1870. Like most things that appear unchanging, the Boat Race is always evolving. 

HTBS’s Tim Koch reports from London,

If you are interested in rowing enough to be reading HTBS then you will almost certainly know the result of the 159th Oxford – Cambridge Boat Race and you will have probably watched it live on television. If you somehow missed it, Oxford won by 1 1/3 lengths in a time of 17 minutes 28 seconds. This completes a ‘clean sweep’ for the Dark Blues who, half an hour earlier, won the heavyweight reserves race (Isis – Goldie) and who, last week at the ‘Henley Boat Races’, won all four events.

Boat Race Day 2013 was a great success with reasonable weather and two exciting races that were fought through to the finish – without interference from ‘outside agencies’. I cannot add to the numerous commentaries of those who are far more expert than I am. Instead, I am simply posting some images of Boat Race Day as I saw it (with a little bit of history thrown in). I hope you enjoy the pictures.

The morning of the Boat Race – polishing the Oxford Boat 2013.

The night before the Boat Race – polishing the Oxford Boat 1874.

The bow of the Oxford Blue Boat. It is named after Acer Nethercott the Oxford and GB cox who died in January, aged 35.

On the morning of the race I was on Putney Embankment and got talking to Chas Newens who has driven the Boat Race Umpire’s boat for many years. Now age 71 and from a family of Putney watermen, he says he was taught to steer the course by Ted Phelps, a member of the famous rowing and boat building family. He also demonstrated the ‘Putney Whistle’ to me. This was used by the old watermen when they were afloat to gain the attention of someone on the shore.

Cycling along the towpath from Putney to Mortlake, I passed Chiswick Steps. It struck me that this simple and uninteresting concrete construction would soon receive its annual but brief moment of fame when it would be mentioned as one of the timing points in the race. The record to here is 9 minutes and 58 seconds. The steps are from the days when there were no nearby bridges over the river and watermen would row people across to Chiswick Church.

This 1883 print shows how dispatches written on the press boat would be put into watertight containers and thrown into the water to be picked up by small rowing boats and taken to a telegraph office….

Today, of course, the internet has replaced watertight containers. Martin Gough produces the live text from the Media Centre at the finish.

Standing on Chiswick Bridge, just in front of the finish line, I was able to get some nice pictures of the action. Here the Isis – Goldie Race is in its last few strokes.

It was a very close and thrilling race which Isis (Oxford) won by 1/3 of a length. Here both crews drift exhausted under Chiswick Bridge.

Oxford lead Cambridge in the final couple of minutes of the race.

The last few strokes of the 159th Boat Race.

Oxford cox Oskar Zorrilla stands in victory.

Back on land, the losing crew find some comfort in comradeship.

Champagne fills the air as Oxford receive their medals and the race trophy.

A Cambridge man seems philosophical about the whole thing.

The winning cox receives the traditional ducking from his apparently grateful crew.

Photography: Tim Koch ©

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