1 November 2018
By William O’Chee
The Tideway, long home to the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race will next year play host to the Oxford and Cambridge Lightweight Boat Race, which will move to London for the first time in its 44-year history. The lightweights will battle it out on 23 March, 2019, two weeks before the more famous contest between the two universities’ heavyweight squads.
While the men’s heavyweight Blue Boats from the two universities have battled it out on the Tideway, or some portion of it, since 1836, the same has not been so for the Lightweight Blue Boats. Their race began in 1975, on the Henley Regatta reach, which was home to the original Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race in 1829.
With the exception of two recent years when the race had to be moved to Eton Dorney, the Lightweight Boat Race has been held there every year since.
The move to London has occurred on the initiative of this year’s Oxford President, Sooraj Mahesh. Having the lightweights race on the Tideway has been spoken about since the 1980s, but was given new impetus after the women’s heavyweight race was moved to London in 2015.
‘After OUWBC moved a few years back, we’ve always felt a real opportunity to make the move ourselves,’ Doug Chesterton, OULRC Secretary, said.
‘I think Sooraj decided that if we really pushed for it and thought through all the plans for the race early enough then, so long as Cambridge were on board, there was no reason that we couldn’t move.’
With backing from their Light Blue opponents, the dream of moving to the Tideway is now a reality and has been greeted enthusiastically by the alumni of both sides.
Ben Booth, who rowed in the winning 1978 and 1979 CULRC crews, said:
‘I’m excited that the lightweights will join illustrious heavyweight oarsmen and women – it was inevitable that our race would follow once the women’s boat races had moved to the Championship course. Though I have to admit I’m a little sad at the passing of a 40 year old tradition.’
To date, Cambridge have had the better of the series, winning 27 of the 43 races to Oxford’s 16. However, with the success of an Oxford crew in winning the LM4- at the European University Championships in July, Dark Blue hopes are higher than a flood tide on the Tideway in March.