Saturday 7 April 2012

Man Jumps into River Thames

I googled the headlines for April 7, 2012 and saw the line "man jumps into the River Thames".  While the swimmer was not going for a morning dip, he was protesting The Boat Race, an historic race between Oxford University Boat Club and Cambridge University Boat Club.  The race dates back to Charles Wordsworth (nephew of the poet William Wordsworth) who was a student at Oxford, and his friend Charles Merrivale who was a student at Cambridge.  In 1829, one challenged the other to a race on the Easter vacation.  The first race was one by Oxford, but the following year it was won by Cambridge.  Some years were missed, but then the race became a yearly event starting in 1856.  In 1912, strong winds caused both boats to sink.  During both World War I and World War II, the official race was cancelled, but then resumed after the conflicts.  The race, which stretched 4 miles and 374 yards along the River Thames from Putney to Mortlake, consisted of two  rowboats of the Cornish Gig design, with eight rowers each and with one cox to steer.  The gruelling training lasted six days a week for six months and later included future Olympians.  Races today are viewed live by a quarter of a million viewers while millions of others watch on television.  To date, the dark blue Cambridge team has won 81 races compared to the light blue Oxford team's total of 76 races.   It will be interesting to see if any of the competitors on the River Thames today will compete at this year's Summer Olympics, also held in London.

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