As 250,000 line the banks of the Thames to watch Oxford and Cambridge battle out the 157th boat race, London Corinthians Sailing Club (LCSC) looks at where to watch the race and what to do with the other 364 days of the year.
The Xchanging Boat Race, one of the most iconic events in the British sporting calendar, started life as a simple challenge between schoolfriends. Cambridge student Charles Merivale challenged Oxonian Charles Wordsworth to a race at Henley-on-Thames, and lost.
Times have changed somewhat since then. Cambridge holds the lead with 80 wins to 75, and the now annual race has moved twice as its popularity grew (from Westminster to Putney in 1839, and to Putney to Mortlake in 1845). The view has moved on from the grandeur of Westminster to the greenery of Chiswick and excellent local pubs and breweries, and the crowd has grown from 20,000 back in 1829 to 250,000 today.
What hasn’t changed is the now global audience, the competitive levels between universities, and the festive atmosphere as Londoners prepare to make the most of the Thames for the day and cheer on their team.
The Boat Race gives thousands a chance to enjoy a day out along the river, do something different and feel a part of wider London. While many argue the toss about the best vantage point, those in the know head toward the sailing clubs between Hammersmith and Chiswick. At the London Corinthians Sailing Club, just downstream from the Old Ship by Hammersmith, there will be a well-stocked barbeque and beer tent open from around 3pm (the race starts at 5pm). Club members will be on hand to answer any questions about how to make the most out of the river or sailing further afield; and if you feel inspired by the Oxford and Cambridge teams you can also talk to members of the Sons of the Thames Rowing Club who are based on the same site.
For the London Corinthian Sailing Club, the river is a wonderful untapped resource that many Londoners sadly ignore. Members – from complete novices trying it out for the first time to experienced dinghy sailors - race dinghies every Saturday and Sunday from the Hammersmith base at Linden House. It could be racing for a trophy or the season’s leader board or cruising down river to a pub and having lunch while the tide turns.
There are also trips further afield exploring up as far as the London Apprentice at Isleworth,and the heart of London by river. The annual cruise in May to the Royal Festival Hall takes sailors past the iconic landmarks of the Battersea Power station, MI6, Thames House (the ‘spooks building’) , the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye.
Whichever takes your fancy, it’s certainly a great way to make the most of one of London’s landmarks more than just once a year.For more details on membership and sailing courses available visit www.lcsc.org.uk.
Full details of the 2011 London Boat Race and where to watch are on www.theboatrace.org
Article by Nicola Garvin (London Corinithian Sailing Club)