Boat Race Day: plus ça change…

A Victorian print of Boat Race Day spectators with the punning title, “A run on the banks”.

4 April 2017

Tim Koch compares and contrasts:

In rowing, Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr’s epigram, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (usually translated as the more things change, the more they stay the same) can most famously be applied to both Henley Royal Regatta and The Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race. Following Sunday’s annual battle between the two shades of blue, I have assembled a collection of pictures to illustrate the fact that, while since the first race in 1829, the contest has constantly changed to reflect evolving economic, social and sporting conditions, those many Old Blues who have gone before would not have found the events of 2 April 2017 entirely unrecognisable. First though, an explanation.

A lot of long, detailed and informed written reports would have come out of the press boat in 1881.

It is not my custom to produce a report of the races held on Boat Race Day. In the past, I have always claimed that this is because there are real rowing journalists who can do this job much better than I. No doubt these people do still exist – though seemingly not as far as what Chris Dodd has called ‘their football-obsessed sports editors’ are concerned. We at ‘Hear The Boat Sing’ are very happy that Chris has written his 2017 report for us – but we would prefer that it was a national daily that published it, not just HTBS. I have not yet ventured out to see what the printed press had produced, but their online offerings (which, understandably, are often a much reduced edit of the ink version) are pretty sparse, but I suppose that they are the best that current newspaper policies and sub-editors will allow. Rachel Quarrell wrote in the Daily Telegraph on the women’s race and Jim White did their report on the men’s race. In the Guardian, the coverage was by Barry Glendenning. As usual, the online Daily Mail’s story is only worth looking at because it has a large number of nice high resolution pictures while another ‘tabloid’, the Daily Mirror, finds a ‘lost medal’ angle to make boring old rowing more interesting. If you wish to make your own mind up, both the men’s race I and the women’s race are on YouTube. If you want to see more decent rowing pieces in the online versions of mainstream newspapers, read Rachel Quarrell’s plea to post comments on those that do appear. My experience of the 2017 Boat Race Day, plus a full report on last Saturday’s Oxford-Cambridge Veterans’ Race, will appear during this week.

Back to plus ça change…

1939: Oxford cox, Massey, and stroke, Bingham.
2017: Oxford cox, Shearer, and stroke, Cameron.
1926: Cambridge.
2017: Cambridge (and reserves, Blondie).
1910: Oxford from above.
2017: Oxford reserves, Isis, from above.
1911: Cambridge carry their boat in the old style.
2017: Blondie carry their boat in the modern style.
1877: Cambridge in natty kit.
2017: Goldie, Cambridge reserves, in colourful kit.
1909: Oxford on Putney Embankment.
2017: Oxford on Putney Embankment.
1931: The coin toss for stations.
2017: The coin toss for stations.
1937: Boat Race crowds on Lower Mall, Hammersmith.
2011: Boat Race crowds on Lower Mall, Hammersmith.
1867: “The Finish of the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race at Mortlake” by James Baylis Allan.
2017. “The Finish of the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race at Mortlake” by Tim Koch.
1882: A manly handshake for a winner.
2017: A manhug for a winner.

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