When visiting Oxford, a great thing to do is to take a walk through Christchurch Meadows to watch the rowers on the River Thames, where this sport has been played out for three centuries. Rowing in its modern form developed in England in the 1700s. It is considered one of the oldest and most physically challenging sports still in existence today. Like swimming, rowing uses every major muscle group in the body: legs, abdomen, chest, back, and arms.
The history of rowing as a sport has prevailed it as one of the oldest traditions in the world. It began as a method of transport and warfare. The first rowed vessels made their appearance more than 4,000 years ago as a faster method of transporting people and goods over short distances. The first evidence we have of competitive rowing for leisure comes from 1430 BC Egypt. Eventually became a sport with a wide following, and a part of the cultural identity of the English speaking world.
Sir Steve Redgrave of Great Britain is widely hailed as the greatest rower ever. A six-time World Champion, he won gold medals at five Olympic Games and has been loosely crowned Athlete of the Century because of the extreme physical demands of rowing.
Oxford sports one of the most prestigious University rowing teams in the world, and around this time of year they are training hard in preparation to take on their biggest rivals. It is one of two famous University towns that battle it out for the winning title in the World famous Boat Race. The team members are known as blues in both Oxford and Cambridge, with the former wearing dark blue strips and the latter wearing light blue.
The race covers a 4.2 mile stretch of the River Thames in West London, between Putney and Mortlake. More than 250,000 people line the banks of the river each year, watching the race, with a record of 270,000.
It is closely contested, once ending in a dead heat. Although Cambridge is currently in the lead when it comes to over all wins, Oxford has won the last few consecutive races. This year the men and women’s races will be held on the 24 of March, marking 80 years since it was first televised.
The race was first recorded as happening in 1829 and has been held annually since 1856 (with the exception of the World Wars). The women’s event was first held in 1927, but did not become an annual picture until 1964. This year the races are being held on the same day, and some have begun referring to the day as the “Cancer Research UK Boat Race” after the official sponsor.
Thirty-six rowers are selected to compete in the event. Among the crews this year are students of chemical engineering, American history, astrophysics and plant sciences. Vassilis Ragoussis and Joshua Bugajski are the only members of last year’s victorious Oxford team set to race again in 2018. At 6ft 10in, Cambridge’s number four seat, American James Letten, is the tallest man to ever compete in the event.