My Day at the 2016 Boat Races

Women’s Race Hammersmith – Oxford in front

Women’s Race at Hammersmith – Oxford in front.

29 March 2016

Clive Radley decided to watch the Boat Races live for the first time. Here are his notes from Sunday:

It’s early morning on Boat Race Day, an event I have always watched on television. I think to myself, I’m 70 years old, surely I need to experience the event live and take in the atmosphere whilst I am still physically capable.

This year, there are four races, and being the author of The Radleys of the Lea, I am thrilled that Maddy Badcott, the Oxford women’s president, learnt to row at Lea Rowing Club on the river where my ancestors rowed during the first 70 years of the 20th century.

The weather doesn’t look good, heavy rain this morning but the forecast for 3pm until 6pm is dry but windy. So whilst the races are taking place, I won’t get soaked with heavy rain.

I make a decision to go, but from where should I watch the races? Hammersmith station is about a 10-minute walk from Hammersmith Bridge and there are pubs nearby on the Middlesex bank to watch the races.

I choose to drive from Frimley to Woking, and then go by train to London. I buy my rail ticket over the Internet. It’s amazingly cheap, as it’s a Sunday, about £10.00 return.

I go early and have lunch at a restaurant at Waterloo Station, upstairs. When I’ve finished my pleasant meal in the Italian restaurant, where no Italians work, I see it’s raining. But when I get to Hammersmith Bridge, the rain has stopped. I find a good place to stand on the bank not far from a pub, the Old City Arms.

Women’s Race, just before the Hammersmith Bridge.
Women’s Race, just before Hammersmith Bridge.

I manage to take pictures of the two main races, using my phone. This is always a rather hit and miss, as in daylight, in the open, I find it very difficult to see what’s on the screen on my phone.

I seem to be much older than most other people I talk to; they are mainly current Oxford and Cambridge students apart from some tourists who don’t know what’s going on.

I see the post-Hammersmith parts of both the women’s and men’s Boat Races in the Old City Arms pub.

Cambridge Men leading at Hammersmith.
Cambridge Men leading at Hammersmith.

The pre-race predictions by Olympian Katherine Grainger and the other experts prove to be correct. Victories for the Oxford women and the Cambridge men. The Cambridge women almost sank, but somehow they kept going and were saved by the pump in their boat.

I was very glad I went to experience the atmosphere and meet lots of students, who were 50 years younger than I – it was a great day. I explained to the students that more than 50 years ago, l rowed for Queen Mary College and we used UL’s boat house just past the finish of the Boat Race course.

All my rowing was over the Boat Race course, but I don’t think I ever experienced such rough conditions as the crews faced this year. We had no pumps back then, so we would for sure have sunk.

On the train going home, I look at the pictures I have taken. They are not bad, I think, perhaps good enough for an article on HTBS about my Boat Race Day?

Cambridge Men Maintain Lead at Hammersmith
Cambridge Men still maintain a lead at Hammersmith.

One comment

  1. 2.3 of British Rowing guide, Row Safe, says “In the event of being swamped – all newly constructed boats must have sufficient
    inherent buoyancy, together with their oars and sculls, to support a seated crew of the stated design weight such that the rowers’ torsos remain out of the water and the boat can be manoeuvred.”

    SO CUBC Women’s boat should not have been able to sink. Their swamped boat was still rowable due to the underseat buoyancy but it was credit to them for continuing in such difficult conditions and full of water.

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