The Oxford – Cambridge Boat Race: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Legacy: The Cambridge Men of 1910 and the Oxford Women of 2020 row the same course.

13 April 2020

By Tim Koch

Tim Koch’s final post on Boat Race Day 2020, “The Day That Never Was”.

Famously, it is often said that the only two certainties of life are death and taxes. Until recently, the Oxford – Cambridge Boat Race could have been appended as a third equally confidently predicted event. The 2020 cancellation of this British sporting institution has affected not just the rowing community but also a significant number of the non-rowing, non-Oxbridge public; inexplicably, the Boat Race still attracts mass audiences despite changing tastes and media habits. However, as far as we can be certain of anything at present, Boat Race Day will return in 2021. Sponsorship will be a major problem but, as the Oxford – Cambridge Lightweights have recently demonstrated, rowing boats can still race from Putney to Mortlake without the benefit of large amounts of cash.

Proof, were it needed, that the Boat Race legacy will continue to be passed from one generation of students to the next in this still private match is illustrated by a favourite theme that I have returned to several times in past Boat Race reports: the more things change, the more they stay the same. The following juxtaposed (and unintentionally Oxford heavy) pictures depict that, after 141 years, the Oxford – Cambridge Boat Race has a life of its own.

Oxford’s balcony scene.

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

The Oxford boatman.

Tom Tims, 1886.
Austin Dorey, 2019.

Polishing the Oxford Boat.

The night before the Boat Race, 1874.
The morning of the Boat Race, 2013.

Oxford in the boathouse.


Cambridge in natty kit.

CUBC, 1877.
Goldie, 2017.

The coin toss for stations.

In the privacy of the boathouse, 1875.
In the public and media spotlight, 2019.

The Presidents.

1931: Oxford President, DE Tinne (left) and Cambridge President, TA Brocklebank (right).
2019: Oxford President, Felix Drinkall (left) and Cambridge, President Dara Alizadeh (right).

Going afloat.

Cambridge, 1868.
Oxford, 2015.

Oxford on Putney Embankment.


Boating from Putney.

Cambridge, 1872.
Oxford, 2019.

Oxford’s cox and stroke.

OUBC cox, Massey, and stroke, Bingham, 1939.
OUWBC cox, Shearer, and stroke, Cameron, 2017.

Off the start at Putney.

Cambridge on Middlesex, Oxford on Surrey, 1926.
Cambridge Women on Middlesex, Oxford Women on Surrey, 2015.

Crowds on Lower Mall, Hammersmith.


Oxford from above.

OUBC, 1910.
Isis, 2019.

A view from the press launch.

A sketch, 1877.
A photograph, 2015.

The finish at Mortlake.

A painting by James Baylis Allan, 1867.
A photograph by Tim Koch, 2017.

Greeting the victorious crew.

Oxford, 1863.
Cambridge, 2019.

Congratulating a winner.

A manly handshake, 1882.
A manhug, 2017.

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