Select location & currency
  • United States / $USD
  • United Kingdom / £GBP
  • Europe / €EUR
  • International / £GBP
thomas-pink-logo

30.03.2024

The Season: Oxbridge Boat Race 2024

On Saturday 30 March 2024, the world will tune in to watch Britain’s two ancient universities compete in the historic rowing race. If you’re one of the thousands of spectators, who will you be supporting and – more importantly – what will you be wearing?

THE HISTORY

Come rain or shine, every spring, the two prestigious universities of Oxford and Cambridge sweep their oars through Thames water as they race to the finish line in one of the world’s oldest amateur sporting events. The Oxford vs Cambridge Boat Race – now known officially as the Gemini Boat Race in a nod to principal sponsor Gemini, a cryptocurrency company founded by twin Olympic oarsmen Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss in 2014 – began with two competitive friends way back in 1829. During his time at Christ Church, Oxford, Charles Wordsworth (nephew of the poet William Wordsworth) remained close with Charles Merivale of St John’s College, Cambridge, with whom he had previously attended Harrow School. Rowing together on the River Cam, the two envisaged a nautical contest between their rival universities. In February 1829, Cambridge sent a letter challenging Oxford to a rowing race, and by 10 June, its first ever iteration took place.

In this seminal race, Wordsworth and his teammate Thomas Garnier chose to adopt the guernsey pattern from Christ Church College on their rowing attire but replaced its black strip with a dark blue one. This would go on to become the famous Oxford Blue. Later, in the second Boat Race in 1836, rowers from Cambridge’s Gonville & Caius College wore a light blue ribbon – the colour of their college’s own boat club. Now, almost two centuries later, this has developed into the duck egg blue tone the Cambridge team dons.

Since becoming an annual fixture in 1856, the Boat Race has only been cancelled due to the World Wars and the COVID-19 pandemic. The first Women’s Boat Race took place in 1927 and only recently, in 2015, moved from Henley to the Championship Course: the 4.2-mile stretch of the Thames where the men’s race is held.

THE RULES

The Championship Course stretches between Putney and Mortlake in southwest London. The winner of a coin toss chooses which side of the course to row on, factoring in the tactical advantages and disadvantages of its bends.The race’s participants must be full-time students at either of the Oxbridge universities. Today, the legendary boat race is regularly attended by a quarter of a million spectators, who revel on the banks of the river, while 15 million people tune in via the BBC’s television broadcast, which will take place from 2pm until 4.30pm this year.

DRESS CODE

If you are thinking of attending this year’s 169th Men’s Boat Race/78th Women’s Boat Race, you’ll no doubt be wondering what to wear. While there is a less formal dress code at the Boat Race than at other British rowing events such as the Henley Royal Regatta, it nonetheless represents a rare opportunity to show off some nautical-style flair.

While you don’t need to wear an authentic rowing blazer, it may still be a good idea to bring something similarly smart and robust, such as a navy jacket or blazer (try our Navy Blue Tailored Fit POW Check Wool Jacket) teamed with light trousers. Shirts in white or light pastel tones will complement the nautical theme and scenery, while serving as versatile mid-layers. Typical of a British bank holiday weekend, the forecast is not exactly glowing over Easter although, blissfully, Saturday appears to be the sunniest day of the week (in 1912 the weather was so bad that both teams’ sank). So, opt for comfortable, ‘transeasonal’ pieces that are practical yet stylish. Our vests (available in padded, quilted and wool varieties) looks the part over a smart shirt and is suitably preppy for such an event, while our Merino Wool Zip Neck Sweater will keep you snug. If you’re in the splash zone (just joking, although you may need to shelter from random downpours), then the Unlined Modern Mac and M65 Jacket will do the trick – the latter looking naval without veering into Captain Pugwash territory. Speaking of which, striped ties are traditional but try to avoid the Venice gondolier aesthetic, and a refreshing Aperol Spritz or Pimm’s is most welcome.

theboatrace.org