Looking Forward 

In the not-too-distant past, there would have been a large turnout of photographers and journalists on significant occasions leading up to the annual Oxford – Cambridge Boat Race. While the numbers of scribes and snappers are, sadly, much reduced these days, the one upside of this is that there are no longer demands from the popular press for ridiculous staged pictures such as this one involving Oxford cox Sue Brown at the 1981 Boat Race weigh-in.

30 December 2022

By Tim Koch

Like a winning coxswain, Tim Koch looks forwards – and backwards. 

The conclusion of the Christmas Holiday and New Year festivities herald what for many in the Northern Hemisphere are the dullest months of the year. January and February in particular are usually cold, dark and seemingly never ending. My method of dealing with this is to use the Boat Race Calendar as a countdown to the brighter days of spring and summer. Helpfully, the Boat Race Company has just published the significant dates leading to 26 March and Boat Race Day 2023.


The Cambridge Women’s “B” crew races Leander in a fixture held in the run up to the 2022 Boat Races.

The dates of “Fixtures” take up most space on this calendar. In these, top British and foreign crews race potential Oxford and Cambridge Blue and reserve crews, usually over sections of the Putney to Mortlake course. They both assist the coaches in deciding crew selection and also provide important race practice, giving the experience of competing against top-class opposition and also providing opportunities for the rowers and coxes to simulate race day as much as possible. They get to know the course, can practise routines and starts, get to race on both the Surrey and the Middlesex stations and have the experience of being properly umpired. 

Sunday, 22 January

Cambridge Women ‘A’ v Oxford Brookes University Boat Club

Saturday, 4 February

11:15 Oxford Women ‘B’ v Molesey Boat Club 

11:30 Oxford Women ‘A’ v Molesey Boat Club

11:45 Oxford Men ‘B’ v Imperial College Boat Club 

12:00 Oxford Men ‘A’ v Molesey Boat Club

Oxford’s Chris Penny (left) and Jonny Searle (right) recover after a fixture with the University of London in February 1988.

Sunday, 5 February – Live on YouTube

11:40 Cambridge Women ‘A’ v University of London Boat Club

12:00 Cambridge Women ‘B’ v University of London Boat Club

12:20 Cambridge Lightweight Women v Imperial College Boat Club

12:45 Cambridge Men ‘B’ v University of London Boat Club

13:10 Cambridge Men ‘A’ v Dutch National Team

Sunday, 12 February 

15:45 Oxford Women ‘A’ v TBC

16:05 Oxford Women ‘B’ v TBC 

16:25 Oxford Men Lightweight fixture

16:45 Oxford Women Lightweight fixture

Watched by large crowds, Cambridge comes in from practice for the 1929 Boat Race.

Sunday, 19 February

11:00 Cambridge Women ‘A’ v Thames Rowing Club

11:15 Cambridge Women ‘B’ v Thames Rowing Club

11:30 Cambridge Lightweight Women v Thames Rowing Club

11:45 Cambridge Men ‘B’ v Leander

12:00 Cambridge Men ‘A’ v Leander

Saturday, 25 February

15:40 Oxford Men ‘A’ v Oxford Brookes University Boat Club 1

16:00 OUBC Men ‘B’ v Oxford Brookes University Boat Club 2

16:20 Oxford Men Lightweight fixture

16:40 Oxford Women Lightweight fixture

Sunday, 26 February

16:05 Oxford Women ‘A’ v Leander

16:20 Oxford Women ‘B’ v Leander

The Oxford Women in training, 2019.

11:30 Cambridge Lightweight Men v Oxford Brookes University Boat Club 

11:45 Cambridge Men ‘B’ v Oxford Brookes University Boat Club

12:00 Cambridge Men ‘A’ v Oxford Brookes University Boat Club

Sunday, 12 March – Live on YouTube

14:20 Cambridge Women ‘B’ v Leander Club

14:40 Oxford Women ‘A’ v Oxford Brookes University Boat Club

15:00 Cambridge Women ‘A’ v Leander Club

15:20 Oxford Women ‘B’ v Oxford Brookes University Boat Club

15:35 Oxford Men ‘B’ v Leander Club 2

15:50 Oxford Men ‘A’ v Leander Club 1


In 2017, the Crew Announcement also included the weigh-in of both the men’s and women’s crews. The bows of the women’s Blue Boats had Oxford’s Flo Pickles, unusually light for an openweight, at 60kg, and Cambridge’s Ashton Brown, unusually for the number one seat, the heaviest in the crew at 82kg. 

The announcement of the final crews for the Blue Boats will be on 6 March. Until recently, this would also have included the weigh-in but in 2022 the women decided that they did not want to be weighed and only the men agreed to the slightly undignified procedure (though the weights announced at the time were not published). I do not know if the men will agree to be weighed this year, but I can imagine a time when they will not. Henley no longer publishes weights in its programme.


Oxford’s 1930 Crew pictured leaving its training base at Goring to spend Tideway Week at Putney. 

Tideway Week, when the crews move into accommodation in or near Putney and make their last physical and mental preparations for the big day, will begin somewhere around 18 March. In 2017, the official website got quite poetical about these final days:

In many senses, (Tideway Week) is a peculiar period; a suspension in time, the deep breath that tends to precede a moment of great significance. The flashpoint nature of a Boat Race season, with its assorted fixtures and distinct lack of pre-race contact, fades to become a final one-lane road which all four crews must take together.

The serenity of a hazy morning on the Thames, a typical scene that greets anyone who involves themselves in the next few days, belies a rising sense of anticipation as the zenith of nine months of preparation approaches.

The Oxford Blue Boat under the watchful eyes of Old Blues in Amaryllis at Putney during the 1929 Tideway Week.
Goldie, the Cambridge men’s reserves, under the watchful eyes of Old Blues in Amaryllis at Chiswick during the 2018 Tideway Week.

Crews take to the water, each stroke meticulously and rigorously analysed by coaches searching for that extra inch. Much of the hard work has been done – weeks of training broken down through testing to select the fastest athletes for each boat.

Between them, the 36 Blue Boat athletes and various support staff will have moved to London around a week (before the race) to begin final preparations. Routine defines a rower’s life – it is perhaps the only way to thrive with a schedule as demanding as the student athlete…. There are only marginal improvements to be made, but every second spent on the unpredictable championship course is valuable.


The Oxford – Cambridge Men’s and Women’s Veterans’ Races will be on Saturday, 25 March. Last year saw the first women’s veteran race in which Cambridge, pictured here, came second.
Sunday, 26 March will see the 77th Women’s Boat Race, the 51st Women’s Reserve Race, Osiris v Blondie, the 58th Men’s Reserve Race, Isis v Goldie, and the 168th Men’s Boat Race. This picture shows the 1911 race approaching Hammersmith.
The official Boat Race poster for 2023 is by Rachel Hunt. She is a graduate of Central St. Martins art college and is also a Chartered Architect. Many of her images depict rowing scenes and boathouses. Rachel’s online shop is here. Picture: @RachelHuntArt. 

One comment

  1. Why, all of a sudden , have athletes become coy regarding their weight? Since time immemorial the weights , and heights, of the Boat Race crews have been published in the Boat Race programme or ,in the case of height , in the press. As any rowing aficionado knows , part of the fun of the sport is comparing the physical attributes of a crew with their boating skill , or lack of, and the age old contest of a ‘good biggun versus a good little un.’

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