Three Men in a Boat? Nine Women Actually!
The boat race is a six month journey culminating in the short burst of intense effort that we see on the Thames in March every year. Here’s a bit of history about the women’s race.
The boat race this Sunday between Oxford and Cambridge is the major event for CUBC and OUBC, who have been racing every year since 1829 (with the exception of the first and second world wars). The boats are known as ‘Blue Boats’ – a reference to the light blue of Cambridge and dark blue of Oxford, and the athletes are known as blues, a term denoting people who represent Cambridge or Oxford in Varsity matches, and a recognition of sporting excellence.
Due to the way society and universities worked in 1829, the boat race was exclusively male until the first female cox appeared in an Oxford boat in 1981. There is now a separate race for women, but from 1977 until 2015 this took place at Henley, traditionally the home of Lightweight rowing. The move to hold the women’s race at the same time and place as the men was for many long overdue (although not everyone agreed it was necessary). The cup for the women’s race was donated by a woman, Betty Francombe, in the early 1930s, and despite being lost for a time is still in use.
In the 50s the women’s race was struggling, but was successfully revived by engineering students in 1962-4, despite remaining male opposition. The inclusion of women in the majority of Cambridge College’s in the 1970s ensured the future of the race, and allowed for the development of reserve crews: Blondie (Cambridge) and Osiris (Oxford). The current statistics stand at 41 wins for CUWBC, and 30 for Oxford.
Rowing with Blondie this year is Emma Andrews (2016), a first year undergraduate studying Natural Sciences. You can read Kit Smart’s interview with her here. They’ll be racing Oxford at 16:50 on Sunday. Good luck to all rowers!