Sunday, March 27, 2011

Oxford v. Cambridge {race #157}

This shouldn't be about a cocktail and it isn't, not entirely. But after entering the Thames towpath from Hammersmith tube, the first thing we came across was a group of Cambridge University Boat Club supporters selling silver tray-fulls of the most fabulous looking drink I'd ever seen hawked riverside in a plastic tumbler. Pimm's Cup is a magical potion crafted of the eponymous liquor + lemonade with mint, cucumber, oranges, lemons & strawberries floating within. For Spring in a glass, 6 quid seemed a small price to pay.

Armed with our amazing libations, we headed on to the main event. The Boat Race is a magnificent promenading party extending the length of the Thames from Putney to Chiswick, ostensibly gathered to watch crew. The idea for the match between Oxford & Cambridge originated with two friends, Charles Merivale (at Cambridge) and his Harrow schoolmate Charles Wordsworth - poet William's nephew - (at Oxford). Back in 1829, Cambridge sent a challenge to Oxford and the tradition was born. The first race took place at Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, and the next year at Westminster. By 1845, however, Westminster had become too crowded. The Race moved six miles upstream to the village of Putney where it remains to this day, with the loser of the previous year’s race challenging the victor to a re-match.

Yesterday, Oxford won the toss and elected Surrey 'station' (South side of the river). At 5:00, under cloudy skies and cool breezes, the race began. Within minutes, Oxford took a commanding lead. Although the most one can see at any single outpost is about a minute of the race, huge screens @ Hammersmith & Putney provided views of the remainder. Within 18 minutes it was all over -- the race, that is. After the winning cox got tossed in the Thames, I'm told parties continued throughout the region well into the evening.

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