The Boat Race: Not Just For Chinless Wonders

By Jo Last edited 154 months ago
The Boat Race: Not Just For Chinless Wonders

This post is written from a personal point of view, eschewing the Ist 'We' for once, because it expresses what is most decidedly a minority view within the Londonist camp.

I disagree entirely with what Alex wrote below; here's why ...

Confession time: I'm a lapsed boatie. I still have the calluses - they never go away - and the drawer-full of self-designed t-shirts - complete with "hilarious" nicknames - to prove it. Why did I give up when I graduated and moved to London? Um, time, mostly - despite living very close to a club, the time commitment is just too high. Give up my weekends and evenings? Ha!

Still, despite the many excellent reasons I have not to take to the water at times of morning only a monk, a farmer or a clubber usually sees and get shouted at by megaphone-wielding nutters, while dodging swans, calculating how many Snickers bars my exertions 'entitled' me to and weeping with pain because my hands were rubbed raw and leaking icky blister filling mixed with blood all over my knees, not to mention the utter tyranny of lycra all-in-ones, I do miss messing about on the river. Sometimes, venturing out just after sunrise for another day of m├ętro boulot dodo, with the sky still chrysanthemum pink and with a pleasant chill in the air, I am overcome with sharp nostalgia for the camaraderie of the boathouse, the rhythm of the slide and the smell of river water in the morning. This being so, how could I miss the Boat Race?

Much like group sex, watching the Boat Race can be loads of fun if you know what you're doing and do it with like-minded people. Location is key - I don't have any posh friends with riverside balconies, unfortunately, but our chosen spot (Furnival Gardens, near Hammersmith Bridge) is civilised enough - there are toilets (VERY important when all the pubs have queues out of the door), a nice comfy wall to sit on, and a big screen for the pre-race interviews and for watching the race itself. We roll up at some point in the morning with crates of beer, bags of the best budget finger food Mr Tesco has to offer and a stack of trashy magazines to pass the time, and nab a spot with all-important wall access. And then proceed to get rather drunk.

I agree with Hazel's comment about braying boys and hair-flicking girls but my friends aren't like that - honest! - so the posh Rahs are an irritant but nothing more. I can see how non-boatie and/or non-Oxbridge people might find it alienating, however; as two groups of notoriously cliquey (some would say incestuous) types, the in-crowd-y reputation has at least some grounding in truth. But as the banks of Old Father Thames fill up with spectators, there's a real party atmosphere.

As for the charge that the Boat Race and its traditions have nothing to do with London: rubbish! Is everyone who runs in the London Marathon a native of the capital? What about the players at Wimbledon - Londoners, are they? The Boat Race, as one of the most widely-watched amateur sports events in the world, is a part of the capital's history - and has been for 177 years. The awesome effort the participants put into preparation for the race deserves some recognition too, at the very least.

Any Londonist readers who happen to be in the vicinity of Hammersmith next Sunday around 4.35pm are more than welcome to drop by, say hi and grab a beer. Only a true curmudgeon could turn down such an invitation - so how about it, Alex? :)


Image taken from SimonPride's Flickr photostream under an attribution, non-commercial, share-alike licence.

For more information on the Boat Race, the official site is here, but we much prefer the Tideway Slug's mixture of news, gossip and sarky, anti-establishment humour, from a distinctly London point of view.

Last Updated 29 March 2006