Boat Race Day: Compare and Contrast

Pic 1
London Rowing Club, Boat Race Day 2015.

Tim Koch writes:

I have often noted that for something to appear unchanging, in reality it must constantly if subtilely evolve. In rowing, this is no better illustrated than looking at Boat Race Day, a unique event dating from 1829 whose popularity continues in a very different age to the one in which it was conceived. The usual complaint from those outside (and a few inside) rowing is that ‘The Day’ is now too commercial. As is usual with those who hark back to some ‘golden age’ (that usually never actually existed) they forget just how bad things actually were before the change about which they rail against. Before professionalism (i.e. before sponsor’s money) the 4 1/4 mile event was a race only until the fitness ran out (around Hammersmith) and then it was a procession to the finish. Many people did not realise this until the television age when they could see these facts for themselves, previously disguised by radio commentators’ florid descriptions or pressmen’s purple prose.

It is sometimes held that Boat Race Day would continue to exist even if it were still informally organised by a few Old Blues in a bar. This ignores that fact that organisers of events are increasingly legally responsible for the safety of any crowds that their occasion attracts – a great expense that someone has to pay for. Passing over this, if the Boat Race were still run as it once was, it would not have the relevance or support that it had from the public in the days when they were enthralled by virtually any spectacle that they did not have to pay for and were much more amused by a lot less than today’s more sophisticated consumers.

This year, of course, there was the momentous event of the Women’s Race taking place over the full Putney to Mortlake course on the same day as the men. After happening once, could anyone conceive of it not continuing? It has clearly boosted interest in Boat Race Day and I suspect that most of its new fans will continue to support it long after the novelty of the new race has worn off.

There follows my not entirely serious illustration of how Boat Race Day has changed and how it has stayed the same in its 186 years.

 

On the balcony

Oxford 1907 at London Rowing Club.
Oxford 1907 at London Rowing Club.
Oxford 2015 at Westminster School Boat Club.
Oxford 2015 at Westminster School Boat Club.

 

The toss for stations

By chaps in a boathouse, 1875.
By chaps in a boathouse, 1875.
By the Women’s Boat Race crews in the media spotlight in 2015.
By the Women’s Boat Race crews in the media spotlight in 2015.

 

Going afloat

Cambridge putting their boat on the water, 1868.
Cambridge putting their boat on the water, 1868.
Oxford putting their boat on the water, 2015.
Oxford putting their boat on the water, 2015.
Cambridge boating, 1872.
Cambridge boating, 1872.
Pic 10
Cambridge boating, 2015.
Oxford in the camera’s eye, 1910.
Oxford in the camera’s eye, 1910.
Oxford in the camera’s eye, 2015.
Oxford in the camera’s eye, 2015.
The Oxford stroke, 1914.
The Oxford stroke, 1914.
The Oxford stroke, 2015.
The Oxford stroke, 2015.

 

The start

Oxford and Cambridge, 1926.
Oxford and Cambridge, 1926.
Oxford and Cambridge Women, 2015.
Oxford and Cambridge Women, 2015.

 

The race

A sketch from the press boat.
A sketch from the press boat.
A photograph from the press boat.
A photograph from the press boat.

 

The finish

The winning crew goes ashore, 1863.
The winning crew goes ashore, 1863.
The losing crew goes ashore, 2015.
The losing crew goes ashore, 2015.

 

Happy winners

Oxford, 1891.
Oxford, 1891.
Osiris, 2015.
Osiris, 2015.

 

More Boat Race stories to follow over the next week….

One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s