Things to know about the Cancer Research Boat Races 2017

No, they are not going to sink.

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This Sunday the River Thames will host the 163rd Cancer Research Boat Races. If, like most of us, you aren’t a 5am-rising, sure-stroking, crab-catching boatie, then the Tab has compiled 10 nuggets of knowledge to keep you afloat.


The men’s race is this Sunday at 5.35pm and the women’s race begins an hour earlier at 4.35pm. The lightweights raced last Sunday, with Cambridge taking several wins.


If, as most of Cambridge students seem to, you live in London, then the start is best watched on Putney Bridge, and the final moments from Chiswick Bridge. Bishop’s Park and Furnivall Gardens also will have big screens and a good atmosphere. If you are unlucky enough to reside in the provinces, then Clare Balding (bred of the right stock: former Cantab, newnhamite and Union President) will guide you through proceedings on the BBC from 4pm.


First raced in 1829 at Henley between a group of Oxbridge school friends, the contest saw Oxford, coxed one J.P. Heywood-Lonsdale (who went to his local state school…perhaps), victorious. Thankfully 2017 yields rowers from all backgrounds and genders.

Alcohol is good (not as if you needed telling that already)

We recommend devising your own drinking game with a pitcher of Pimms. To get you started: drink when you hear the words Land Economy, or an American accent. If it’s an American studying Land-Ec, it’s time to down your drink.

Sink this hard

Boatie friends are there to be consulted.

This is the one time of year when they feel popular (see also: tennis players during Wimbledon), so make sure to ask them for their punditry.


If you’re attending in person, there are a few important guidelines. First, don’t wear fucking tweed; leave that to Oxf*rd. Do, however, wear lots of light-blue stash (for the fresher mathmo who still hasn’t left his room, that’s us), or if a boatie then bright club blazers are naturally expected.


Traditionally on the night before the races teams exchange nude photos. Though you probably know that rowers always sleep with rowers – there’s a reason why Crushbridge is a basically a boatie orgy. We advise you to show your loyalty to the light-blues by engaging in your own Cantabridgian romp.

Blazing drama

Thames Port authorities earlier this year declared the wooden boats used in the flotilla as the hulls don’t upset water conditions for the rowers, unsafe. Thankfully, the races were not foiled by regulation and they came to a compromise. So much for taking back control.

Fancy a flutter?

It seems the bookies have been on the booze as Oxf*rd men are currently favourites on 2/5, with at Cambridge 15/8. The women on the other hand are in good form, sitting at 5/4 odds-on.

Beware the crew weights

Does that 6ft guy really weighs 90 kilos? You sure that Cox is below 50kg? Well, they’re probably not. Teams often play mind games with the weigh in, going under weight to play up their underdog status or heavy to intimate their opponents. Rumour has it one year a 6-seat smuggled a 10kg weight in his underwear…

For a handy demystification of boatie lingo (allegedly now a recognised language by the EU), Robert Shearme’s excellent article from last year is awash with useful info.