Amongst the popular sporting events occuring between March and April in the UK, is the ever popular Oxbridge boat race, a set of annual rowing races with eights, boats with 8 rowers, between Oxford University and Cambridge University boat clubs. It takes place on the River Thames in London either on the last week end of March or the first week end of April. The course is 4.2 miles long (6.8kms) between Putney and Mortlake.
The members of the teams are known as blues since Cambridge rows in light blue while Oxford rows in dark blue. Team members must be students of their respective universities and although they are all amateurs, their training schedule, 6 days a week for 6 months before the event, is very intense.
The first race was held in 1829 and has been an annual event since 1856, with the exception of war times. To this day, Cambridge has scored 81 wins against 79 for Oxford. A dead heat was recorded in 1877.
The race is now a British national institution as more than 250, 000 people watch the race live from the banks of the Thames each year and another 15 to 18 million also follow the race on television.
The tradition was started in 1829 by Charles Merivale, a Cambridge student and his friend Charlds Wordsworth, an Oxford student. Cambridge challenged Oxford to a race at Henley-on-Thames and promptly lost the race. Oxford rowed in dark blue as 5 of the crew members were from Christ Church College, Oxford, whose colours are dark blue.
The second race in 1836 took place between Westminster and Putney. The two following years, the place of the race gave rise to many disagreements and in 1839, the race moved officially to London.
The tradition continues today with the loser of the race challenging the winner to an annual rematch.