‘Can we stop pretending that the Boat Race is in any way important or interesting?’

Oxford student Joe Edwards tells you why nobody should like the Boat Race


The Boat Race is a venerable British institution. It’s been going right through the nation’s capital every year for over 150 years, draws international attention to our two greatest universities (sorry, Durham), and brings everyone who’s anyone out onto the banks of the Thames. 

It’s not surprising, really. People love themselves some Oxbridge, because generally people wish they were at Oxbridge – particularly people who’ve never met anyone who went to Oxbridge for some strange reason.

I simply can’t imagine why.

But let’s break it down. First things first, the Boat Race is a rowing contest. Rowing is a terrible sport to compete in, and it’s even worse to watch. This admittedly fits in well with the Oxbridge tradition that upholds rugby union, croquet, and buggery, but it’s still crap.

No-one enjoys rowing. It’s just something you do because unless you’re heinously obese, you can be a rower. The sport involves no actual skill, but simply bloody-minded endurance. It’s just a matter of getting up at 6am and rotating your arms until you have to go to lectures, and after doing this a hundred times you rotate arms against other people and see who lucks out and comes ahead.

Look at how much fun this lot are all having!

People do it purely for the social side – the crew dates, the summer races, and, of course, the Boat Race itself. But here’s the problem: rowing parties are the most asinine parties. They’re a medley of underfed pretty boys boasting about how they can erg all the punts, and public school girls fawning over how that 10-kilometre race has almost made their biceps look existent.

“Yeah, guys, check out these guns, I bench a solid 10 kilos.”

Yes, you can (and will) get shit-faced drunk, and it’s usually sunny, which is nice. But are we really at that point as a society where we have to use rowing as an excuse to drink? Really? That’s approximately two steps from ‘The Official Paint-Drying Drinking Game’.

This isn’t even mentioning the hilarious fact that this great symbol of the British athletic-academic ubermensch is fought between two sets of foreign and/or graduate ringers. Oxford and Cambridge have just a single undergraduate rower apiece on the main boats (coxes asides), and the majority of each team are overseas students in their late-20s who just happened to come to Oxbridge with a litany of rowing honours.

How many of these people remember their UCAS application?

I’m sure there’s someone out there who genuinely enjoys the Boat Race, just as there’s surely someone out there who enjoys professional lacrosse, or goatees, or Michael McIntyre. Great. Have fun. But can we, as a society, stop pretending that the Boat Race is in any way important or interesting?

This article was originally published on The Tab Oxford.