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The Boat Race 1856

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13th Boat Race
Date15 March 1856 (1856-03-15)
Margin of victory1/2 length
Winning time25 minutes 45 seconds
Overall record
UmpireW. G. Rich

The 13th Boat Race took place on the River Thames on 15 March 1856. Typically held annually, the event is a side-by-side rowing race between crews from the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. The race, the second to be held on the ebb tide, was won by Cambridge who beat Oxford by half a length.


The Boat Race is a side-by-side rowing competition between the University of Oxford (sometimes referred to as the "Dark Blues")[1] and the University of Cambridge (sometimes referred to as the "Light Blues").[1] The race was first held in 1829, and since 1845 has taken place on the 4.2-mile (6.8 km) Championship Course on the River Thames in southwest London.[2][3] It was the second race to be held on the ebb tide, the first time since the 1846 race, from Barker's Rails to Putney, approximately 1,200 yards (1,097 m) longer than the conventional course.[4][5] Oxford went into the race as reigning champions, having defeated Cambridge by seven lengths in the previous race held in 1854. Cambridge led overall with seven wins to Oxford's five.[6]

No Boat Race took place in 1855 – severe frost had caused both the Thames (from Oxford to Henley) and the River Cam to freeze, and heavy snow curtailed efforts to practice for the race.[7] Instead the universities faced each other at the Henley Royal Regatta where Cambridge won the Grand Challenge Cup.[8] Despite the victory, Cambridge agreed that they should propose the challenge to Oxford and did so during the October term; it was duly accepted.[9] Both crews raced in boats constructed by Searle.[10] The umpire for the race was W. G. Rich,[11] the former Cambridge University Boat Club president who had rowed in both the March and December races of 1849.[12] The starter was Edward Searle.[13]


The Cambridge crew weighed an average of 11 st 9.375 lb (73.9 kg), 8.75 pounds (4.0 kg) per rower more than their opponents. None of the competitors had taken part in a previous Boat Race.[13]

Seat Cambridge
University of Cambridge coat of arms.svg
Name College Weight Name College Weight
Bow J. P. Salter Trinity Hall 9 st 13 lb P. Gurdon University 10 st 8 lb
2 F. C. Alderson 3rd Trinity 11 st 3 lb W. F. Stocken Exeter 10 st 1 lb
3 R. L. Lloyd 3rd Trinity 11 st 12 lb R. Ingham Salmon Exeter 10 st 10 lb
4 H. E. Fairrie Trinity Hall 12 st 10 lb A. B. Rocke Christ Church 12 st 8.5 lb
5 H. Williams Lady Margaret Boat Club 12 st 8 lb Richard Townsend Pembroke 12 st 8 lb
6 J. M'Cormick Lady Margaret Boat Club 13 st 0 lb Arthur P. Lonsdale Balliol 11 st 4 lb
7 Herbert Snow Lady Margaret Boat Club 11 st 8 lb G. Bennett New College 10 st 10 lb
Stroke H. R. M. Jones 3rd Trinity 10 st 7 lb J. T. Thorley Wadham 9 st 12 lb
Cox W. Wingfield 1st Trinity 9 st 0 lb F. W. Elers Trinity 9 st 2 lb
(P) – boat club president


The Championship Course, along which the race was conducted in reverse from shown in 1856

Cambridge won the toss and elected to start from the Middlesex station, handing the Surrey side of the river to Oxford.[14] The race commenced shortly after 11 a.m. with Oxford taking an early lead. Cambridge's number six, M'Cormick, caught a wave with his oar by the Ship pub and lost his seat, allowing Oxford to extend their lead. After recovering, Cambridge made a substantial push and passed Oxford to hold a small advantage, to hold a half-a-length by Barnes Bridge. Although they nearly increased their lead to a length, the Light Blues encountered a barge at Corney Reach which caused them to change course and lose ground, enabling Oxford to draw level once again. The crews exchanged leads with Oxford shooting Hammersmith Bridge with a half-length advantage. Cambridge steered closer to the shore and retook the lead. Despite a late surge from the Dark Blues, Cambridge passed the finish first, winning by half a length in a time of 25 minutes 45 seconds.[15] It was Cambridge's first win in four attempts and their eighth win overall against Oxford's five victories.[6]


  1. ^ a b "Dark Blues aim to punch above their weight". The Observer. 6 April 2003. Archived from the original on 11 September 2014. Retrieved 1 September 2014.
  2. ^ Smith, Oliver (25 March 2014). "University Boat Race 2014: spectators' guide". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 1 July 2014. Retrieved 3 June 2014.
  3. ^ "The Course". The Boat Race Company Limited. Archived from the original on 28 October 2014. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
  4. ^ "Early races". The Boat Race Company Limited. Archived from the original on 7 November 2014. Retrieved 9 November 2014.
  5. ^ Woodgate, W. B. (30 March 2010). "History of British Boating and Rowing". Salzwasser-Verlag GmbH. ISBN 978-3861953043.
  6. ^ a b "Boat Race – Results". The Boat Race Company Limited. Archived from the original on 12 July 2016. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
  7. ^ Drinkwater, pp. 40–41
  8. ^ MacMichael, p. 217
  9. ^ MacMichael, pp. 218–219
  10. ^ MacMichael, p. 219
  11. ^ Burnell p. 49
  12. ^ MacMichael, pp. 150, 160
  13. ^ a b c MacMichael, p. 220
  14. ^ Burnell, p. 56
  15. ^ MacMichael, pp. 220–223

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