Dust off your gilet and mix up a flask of Pimm's. It's time to watch London's poshest annual sporting fixture: the boat races.
What is the boat race?
There are actually two boat races — pitting elite rowing teams from Oxford and Cambridge universities against one another, in a furious dash along the Thames.
It started with the men's inaugural fixture in 1829 — a head-to-head thrashed out annually between 1856 and 2019, world wars excepted. It was cancelled in 2020 due to Covid 19, and in 2021 it took place 'behind closed doors' in Cambridgeshire to prevent crowds gathering. Things are now back to normal.
The women's race first ran in 1927, although it didn't become an annual event until 1964. It wasn't until 2015 that the women first raced the same course, on the same day as the men.
When are the 2023 boat races?
Both boat races take place on Sunday 26 March 2023. The women's race begins at 4pm. The men's follows at 5pm.
2023 marks the 77th women's race, and the 168th men's race.
Who are the current boat race champions?
The winner of the 2022 men's race was Oxford. But the overall record is 85-81 to Cambridge.
The winner of the 2022 women's race was Cambridge. The overall record is 46-30 to Cambridge.
What route do the boat races take?
Both races now cover the same route. A four-mile, 374 yards dash along the Thames, westward from Putney to Mortlake.
The women's course record is held by Cambridge from 2022's race: 18 minutes, 23 seconds. The men's record is also held by Cambridge, set in 1998: 16 minutes, 19 seconds.
Where's the best place to watch the boat races from?
Pick a spot most places along the banks of the Thames between Putney Bridge and Chiswick Bridge, and you should be able to spy the boats. There are a couple of official fan zones set up along the route, where you'll find large screens to watch the BBC coverage, bars selling English sparkling wine and Shepherd Neame brews, food villages, toilets, fun family activities and seating:
A few other vantage points come recommended:
- Putney Bridge (for the very start of the race)
- The Pier House, Chiswick Pier — one of the best vantage points along the course — and there's food, a bar and big live music from 1pm. It overlooks Chiswick Eyot, a point where trailing teams often make their move.
- Chiswick Bridge (for the very end of the race), although it's said that Barnes Bridge actually commands better views.
We recommend you get to any of these places at least a couple of hours before the races start. Warm clothes aren't a bad idea either — it's springtime in London, so often bloody chilly.
Is Hammersmith Bridge closed to spectators for the boat races?
Yes, as per 2022, Hammersmith Bridge won't open to spectators, owing to safety fears. The bridge closes to all traffic (inc. bike and pedestrian) on the day of the races at 11am and reopens at 6pm.
Where's the best pub to watch the boat races from?
Now you're talking. Plenty of riverside drinking establishments are strung out along this stretch of the Thames, providing a decent view of the river, and a pint to go with. Get there bright and early or — if you can — book a table in advance.
- The Boathouse, Putney (this is positioned just behind the starting line, good for seeing the boats gather)
- Duke's Head, Putney
- Crabtree Tavern, Hammersmith — hosts a Boat Race Day festival with live music and entertainment.
- Blue Anchor, Hammersmith
- The Dove, Hammersmith
- The Black Lion, Chiswick
- The Bull's Head, Barnes
- Ye White Hart, Barnes
- The Ship, Mortlake
What's the weather going to be like?
Too early to call! Keep an eye on the Met Office info closer to the time. (But as we say, always take plenty of layers — it invariably gets a tad chilly standing around outside.)
Are the boat races shown on TV?
Yep. Watched by about 15 million people. Both races are broadcast on BBC One on Sunday, with commentary usually beginning an hour or so before the women's race.
For more information on the boat races, including details on who's rowing, visit the official website.