Cambridge University Boat Club

Cambridge, United Kingdom | C.1828

Photo Credit: Catherine Breslin

It started as a rivalry without a venue amongst two undergraduate friends. Charles Merivale of St. John’s College Cambridge and Charles Wordsworth of Christ Church Oxford had been inspired by a recent Oxford vs. Cambridge cricket match. This turned serious swiftly when at the inaugural meeting of the Cambridge University Boat Club (CUBC) in 1828 a formal invitation was issued: “The University of Cambridge hereby challenge the University of Oxford to row a match at or near London each in an eight-oar boat during the Easter vacation.” The challenge was accepted, and the first race was rowed on June 10th, 1829.

The race itself did not have a settled venue for many years, and it was not until 1873 that Goldie Boathouse was built on the Cam specifically for CUBC. It was named after J.H.D. Goldie, who won three races against Oxford between 1869 to ‘72.

It only took 99 years into CUBC’s history for the first Race between female crews to take place. Many considered boating strenuous exercise not suitable for women and at the first race in Oxford, “large and hostile crowds gathered on the towpath” to protest. The first few women’s “races” were not even decided in a side-by-side contest but rather were judged on “time and style” – two female crews were not even allowed in the river at the same time.

Once Oxford & Cambridge became co-educational in the early 1970s, women’s racing was more accepted. By the 1980s, the women’s and men’s clubs increasingly worked and shared resources. Only by 2015, the women’s Boat Race was moved to the Tideway to race over the same course on the same day as the men. This triggered the formation of one Cambridge University Boat Club that was officially incorporated in August 2020.

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