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The Boat Race
Cambridge won the 158th Boat Race (7 April 2012) in possibly one of the most dramtic races.
The first boat race was the result of a challenge issued to Oxford by Cambridge in 1829. It was rowed on the Thames at Henley. Oxford wore dark blue jerseys, later to become the Oxford blue, and Cambridge donned pink sashes. Oxford were the first winners. The second race was staged in 1836 when Cambridge adopted their own light blue, and was rowed on a five and three-quarter mile stretch of the Thames between Westminster and Putney.
Today the 4.5 mile course, which was first used in 1845, stretches from Putney to Mortlake. The race is held in March or early April, after the captain of the previous year's losing team issues a formal challenge. The average time taken to complete the course is 20 minutes, but Cambridge holds the record for the fastest time of 16 minutes and 19 seconds, achieved in 1998.
Cambridge sank in 1859 and 1978, Oxford in 1925 and 1951, and both boats went down in 1912 when the race was started in a virtual gale. The most recent sinking occurred in 1984, when Cambridge sank after ramming a barge before they were even under starter's orders. The remains of the boat now have pride of place in a Cambridge public house, and have been signed by all crew members. Oxford made history in 1981 with the selection of the first female cox, Sue Brown. She coxed crews to victory in both 1981 and 1982.
In 2012 the race was stopped while Oxford were leading due to a swimmer in the river. After the re-start the crew’s blades clashed destroying the spoon on the end of Oxford’s Hanno Weinhausen’s blade. Down to seven men, the race was effectively over as Cambridge pulled away to win by 4 and a quarter lengths. After crossing the line, Oxford’s Alex Woods collapsed unconscious and was taken to Charing Cross hospital where he was recovering well a short time later.
The current score stands at 81 to Cambridge, 76 to Oxford, with one controversial dead heat in 1877. There have been other very close results: Oxford won by a canvas in 1952 and 1980, and the 2003 race was won by just 12 inches. The race is the most famous of the Varsity Matches and has a huge audience on television, radio and online. 7.2 million people in the UK alone tuned into the 2006 Race, and on average more than 100 million watch the race worldwide each year. Around a quarter of a million people are estimated to watch the race from the riverbank.