User:Pointillist/Course

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Course[edit]

Boat Race course ("Middlesex" and "Surrey" denote sides of the Thames Tideway, not the actual English counties)

The course is 4 miles and 374 yards (6,779 m) from Putney to Mortlake, passing Hammersmith and Barnes; it is sometimes referred to as the Championship Course, and follows an S shape, east to west. The start and finish are marked by the University Boat Race Stones on the south bank. The clubs' presidents toss a coin (the 1829 sovereign) before the race for the right to choose which side of the river (station) they will row on: their decision is based on the day's weather conditions and how the various bends in the course might favour their crew's pace. The north station ('Middlesex') has the advantage of the first and last bends, and the south ('Surrey') station the longer middle bend.

Competing for the fastest current

During the race the coxes compete for the fastest current, which lies at the deepest part of the river, frequently leading to clashes of blades and warnings from the umpire. A crew that gets a lead of more than a boat's length can cut in front of their opponent, making it extremely difficult for the losing crew to overtake back. For this reason the tactics of the race are generally to go fast early on, and few races have a change of the lead after half-way (though this happened in 2003 and again in 2007).

The race is rowed upstream, but is timed to start on the incoming flood tide so that the crews are rowing with the fastest possible current.[1] If a strong wind is blowing from the west it will be against the tide in places along the course, causing the water to become very rough. The conditions are sometimes such that an international regatta would be cancelled, but the Boat Race has a tradition of proceeding even in potential sinking conditions. Several races have featured one, or both, of the crews sinking. This happened to Cambridge in 1859 and 1978, and to Oxford in 1925 and 1951. Both boats sank in 1912, and the race was re-run, and in 1984 Cambridge sank after crashing into a stationary barge while warming up before the race.[2][3] Cambridge's sinking in 1978 was named in 79th place on Channel 4's list of the 100 Greatest Sporting Moments.

The race is for heavyweight eights (i.e., for eight rowers with a cox steering, and no restrictions on weight). Female coxes are permitted, the first to appear in the Boat Race being Sue Brown for Oxford in 1981. In fact female rowers would be permitted in the men's boat race, though the reverse is not true.

During the race the crews pass various traditional landmarks, visible from the river:

Landmark Coordinates Comments
Putney
Westminster School Boat Club early morning.jpg
Exterior KCS Boat House.jpg
Oxford boats from Westminster School Boat Club (left), and Cambridge from King's College School Boat Club (right). Both clubs are near the Start, just downstream of the Black Buoy. The crews warm up by rowing downstream below Putney Bridge before taking their places at the start.
The Start by Putney Bridge
51°28′02″N 0°12′50″W / 51.467319°N 0.213756°W / 51.467319; -0.213756 (Boat Race start)
Boat Race Start stone.jpg
Cambridge VIII at Stakeboat - 2009 Boat Race.jpg
The race starts from two stake boats moored with their sterns in line with the University Stone on the south bank. The winner of the toss has the choice of station (the Surrey station has won 10 out of the last 15 races).[4]
Start - 2009 Boat Race.jpg
Start section (empty) - 2009 Boat Race.jpg
Coxes raise their arms while their VIIIs are getting into position. When both crews are ready the Umpire starts the race by waving a red flag. In the straight section after the start the Middlesex crew tries to hold the fastest water on the centre line of the river.
The Black Buoy
51°28′16″N 0°13′16″W / 51.471211°N 0.221132°W / 51.471211; -0.221132 (The Black Buoy)
Boat Race Black Buoy.jpg
Roughly marks the end of the Putney Boat Houses. The Black Buoy has now been painted yellow to avoid collisions.
Fulham Football Club
51°28′30″N 0°13′18″W / 51.474895°N 0.221655°W / 51.474895; -0.221655 (Fulham Football Club)
Boat Race Craven Cottage.jpg
'Craven Cottage': crews stay wide (preferring the Surrey bank) round the bend as the area in front of the football ground (known as 'the Fulham flats') is shallow, with slack water.[5].
The Mile Post
51°28′43″N 0°13′37″W / 51.47852°N 0.226987°W / 51.47852; -0.226987 (The Mile Post)
Boat Race 1st Milestone and bust.jpg
The 'post' is in fact a stone monument to rowing coach Steve Fairbairn. Exactly a mile from the Boat Race start, it is a traditional timing point. The Middlesex bank water continues to be shallow and slack all the way to Hammersmith Bridge.[5]
The Crabtree
51°28′55″N 0°13′25″W / 51.482041°N 0.223482°W / 51.482041; -0.223482 (The Crabtree)
Boat Race Crabtree Reach.jpg
This section is called the "Crabtree Reach" after the Crabtree Tavern pub on the Middlesex bank (just to the right of the camera).
Harrods Furniture Depository
51°29′05″N 0°13′41″W / 51.484633°N 0.227956°W / 51.484633; -0.227956 (Harrods' Furniture Repository)
Boat Race Harrod's Depositary.jpg
Previously the warehouse for the famous shop, now apartments. For the next 8-9 minutes the bend will be in Surrey's favour. The deep water channel now lies close to the Surrey bank.[5]
Hammersmith Bridge
51°29′17″N 0°13′50″W / 51.488129°N 0.230536°W / 51.488129; -0.230536 (Hammersmith Bridge)
Boat Race Hammersmith Bridge.jpg
Coxes aim for the second lamp-post from the left which marks the deepest part of the river and therefore the fastest line. 80%-85% of boats ahead at Hammersmith Bridge have won, though only 50% in the last 6 years.[4] The turning point comes once the crews are under Hammersmith Bridge.
St Paul's School
51°29′20″N 0°14′09″W / 51.488983°N 0.235855°W / 51.488983; -0.235855 (St Paul's School)
Boat Race St Paul's.jpg
1.80 miles have been rowed and the direction and perhaps the wind and water conditions are about to change. The next 3-4 minutes are Surrey's last major opportunity to kill the Middlesex crew off.[4]
Chiswick Eyot ("eight")
51°29′15″N 0°14′45″W / 51.487596°N 0.245814°W / 51.487596; -0.245814 (Chiswick Eyot)
Chiswick Eyot.jpg
An uninhabited river island. The river is straight again, and the deepest water is half-way between the Eyot and the Surrey bank.[5]
Fuller's Brewery
51°29′14″N 0°15′01″W / 51.487182°N 0.250411°W / 51.487182; -0.250411 (Chiswick Eyot)
Boat Race Fullers Brewery.jpg
Just visible to crews, behind the eyot. The most exposed section of the course with the risk of wind problems.[4]
Chiswick Pier
51°28′57″N 0°15′03″W / 51.482452°N 0.250937°W / 51.482452; -0.250937 (Chiswick Pier)
Boat Race Chiswick Pier.jpg
2.87 miles have been rowed. If there are wind problems the inside of the Middlesex bend may offer calmer water.[4]
The Crossing
51°28′44″N 0°15′02″W / 51.47879°N 0.250583°W / 51.47879; -0.250583 (The Crossing) Marks the end of the long Surrey bend. The deep water channel is in the centre of the river.[5]
The Bandstand
51°28′36″N 0°15′08″W / 51.476572°N 0.252149°W / 51.476572; -0.252149 (The Bandstand)
Boat Race Bandstand.jpg
The deep water channel lies close to the Middlesex bank at this point, and water near the Surrey bank is shallow.[5]
Barnes Railway Bridge
51°28′22″N 0°15′14″W / 51.472736°N 0.253758°W / 51.472736; -0.253758 (Barnes Railway Bridge)
Boat Race Barnes Railway Bridge centre span.jpg
Crews must pass through the centre arch. 95% of boats leading here have won. Only one boat has won since 1945 when trailing at Barnes Bridge: Oxford came from behind this late in 2002. The Barnes Bridge corner is very tight: if both crews are level this is a real test for the coxes.[4]
Stag Brewery
51°28′14″N 0°15′59″W / 51.470474°N 0.266376°W / 51.470474; -0.266376 (Stag Brewery)
Boat Race Mortlake Brewery.jpg
3.94 miles have been rowed. Previously a Watneys brewery, now producing Budweiser beer.
The Finish by Chiswick Bridge
51°28′22″N 0°16′05″W / 51.472861°N 0.268151°W / 51.472861; -0.268151 (The Boat Race Finish)
Boat Race Finish posts.jpg
Boat Race Finish post 800x533.jpg
The finish, just before Chiswick Bridge is marked by a stone on the south bank and a post on the north bank.

In the arms of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, which covers much of the course, two griffin supporters hold oars, one light blue, one dark, in reference to the Boat Race. These colours are highly unusual in English heraldry.

Previous Courses[edit]

The course for the main part of the races' history has been from Putney to Mortlake, but there have been three other courses:

In addition, there were four unofficial boat races held during World War II away from London — 1940 (Henley-on-Thames), 1943 (Sandford-on-Thames), 1944 (River Great Ouse, Ely), and 1945. As none of those competing were awarded blues, these races are not included in the official list.

  1. ^ The Boat Race
  2. ^ "The Boat Race". 
  3. ^ "How it began". The Race History. 2006. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Craig Doyle, James Cracknell, Wayne Pommen, Tim Foster, Barney Williams, Peter Drury. The Boat Race 2008. ITV Sport.  Unknown parameter |date2= ignored (help);
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Rowing Chart" (pdf). Rowing on the Tideway. Port of London Authority. 2006-09-06. Retrieved 2008-04-12.