This weekend I got to participate in one of the longest standing and most loved events in England, the Oxford Cambridge boat races! I had heard tidbits about the race for years from ESPN and YouTube clips, but I had no idea what to expect going into the day. The race was held the Saturday before Easter, and Berkley, Grace, and I woke up bright and early to head down to the River Thames to get a good place for viewing! It began at Putney Bridge, way out in East London in a part of town I had not yet traveled to. When I got out of the tube stop I felt more like I was in the suburbs than the heart of London, with green grass and cobblestone streets and buildings. There was even a used book store on the corner with the sweetest man offering directions on the best place to watch the race! Since we weren’t sure where to stand, we decided to follow a crowed of students decked out in Cambridge attire, assuming they would be searching for a good place to cheer!
One thing I definitely have to elaborate on is what I mean when I say “Cambridge attire!” At any Temple sporting event students are dressed in TU sweatshirts or t-shirts with various sayings and pictures of owls covering them, along with red hair spray or face paint. This was definitely NOT the case at the Oxford Cambridge boat race! Here, students (and others alike) were all dressed in everything from suits, to tuxedos, to robes all displaying their university’s emblem or color scheme. Now, I think I speak for all women when I say there is no sight more perfect than dozens of British men dressed in blazers!
As interesting as the attire for the event was, there wound up being much more exciting things occurring during the race. We were standing at the start of the course, and got to see the teams take to the water and the red flag wave to signify the start of the race. Then, once the boats passed (and boy was that fast) there was a large screen in front of us where everyone was set to watch the remainder of the race. Unfortunately about five minutes after the teams passed, the race was brought to a startling halt. We could barely make him out on the screen, but apparently a protester had plunged into the Thames right in front of the two crew teams! The referee had to stop the race in order to save the protester’s life, and a police boat rushed over and carried the man out of the water. This has never happened during the race before apparently, and the hundreds of people around us watching were just as shocked and confused! Finally, they restarted the event and the boats were once again off down the river. We thought the rest of the race would run smoothly, but then another dramatic event occurred – Oxford and Cambridge got too close to each other in the heat of the race and one of the rowers for Oxford lost a paddle when they clashed! This caused Oxford to fall well behind and Cambridge sailed to an easy victory a few minutes later. Then, at the end of the race one of the members of the Oxford team passed out from exhaustion, adding to the overall craziness of the event! After talking to a variety of regular boat race go-ers around us we learned that this was by far the most eventful and dramatic boat race anyone could remember! After the man from the Oxford team was pronounced to be alright by medics, Cambridge fans all around began to let out their cheers as their team had one the race for the first time in quite a few years! In celebration, everyone went to all of the local bars and pubs and the entire area transformed into an outdoor lawn party!
We ended the day by checking out the Cambridge Boat house where the team took to the water, hoping for a glimpse of some of the team members! Unfortunately they were out celebrating, however we did get a picture in front of the boat house!: