The Boat Race 1869

The 26th Boat Race between crews from the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge took place on the River Thames on 17 March 1869. Oxford won by three lengths in a time of 20 minutes and 4 seconds. It was their ninth consecutive victory and was, at that point, the fastest time ever recorded in the event.

26th Boat Race
Date17 March 1869 (1869-03-17)
Margin of victory3 lengths
Winning time20 minutes 4 seconds
Overall record
UmpireJoseph William Chitty


Joseph William Chitty was the umpire.

The Boat Race is a side-by-side rowing competition between the University of Oxford (sometimes referred to as the "Dark Blues")[1] and the University of Cambridge (sometimes referred to as the "Light Blues").[1] The race was first held in 1829, and since 1845 has taken place on the 4.2-mile (6.8 km) Championship Course on the River Thames in southwest London.[2][3] Oxford went into the race as reigning champions, having defeated Cambridge by six lengths in the previous year's race and led overall with fifteen wins to Cambridge's ten.[4]

Having lost the last eight Boat Races, the Cambridge University Boat Club president William Anderson wrote to G. Morrison of Balliol College, Oxford, inviting him to coach the trials eights and the University eight.[5] Morrison had rowed in the 1859, 1860 and 1861 races and had also acted as a non-rowing president for the 1862 race.[6] The decision to engage a member of the opposing university was greeted with consternation and considered by many Cantabrigians as "a disgrace to the Club".[5] Indeed, five Old Blues refused to row, only William MacMIchael agreed to row again.[7] After the usual difficulty to agree arrangements, Cambridge eventually sent the traditional challenge and the date of the race was set for 17 March 1869.[8] Cambridge arrived at Putney a fortnight beforehand and made several practice rows in variable conditions, the worst of which included heavy snow, three days prior to the race.[9]

The race was umpired by Joseph William Chitty who had rowed for Oxford twice in 1849 (in the March and December races) and the 1852 race, while the starter was Edward Searle.[10]


The Oxford crewed weighed an average of 12 st 0.25 lb (76.1 kg), 2.125 pounds (1.0 kg) more than their opponents.[11] The Cambridge crew contained three returning Blues, William MacMichael, William Anderson (for his third Boat Race) and John Still (his fourth), while Oxford saw the return of five rowers, including their boat club president J. C. Tinné for his third appearance and Frank Willan in his fourth Boat Race.[11]

Frank Willan made his fourth appearance for Oxford in the Boat Race.
Seat Cambridge
Name College Weight Name College Weight
Bow J. A. Rushton Emmanuel 11 st 5 lb S. H. Woodhouse University 10 st 13.5 lb
2 J. H. Ridley Jesus 11 st 10.5 lb R. Tahourdin St John's 11 st 11 lb
3 J. W. Dale St John's 11 st 12 lb T. S. Baker Queen's 12 st 8 lb
4 F. J. Young Christ's 12 st 4 lb F. Willan Exeter 12 st 2.5 lb
5 W. F. MacMichael Downing 12 st 4 lb J. C. Tinné (P) University 12 st 10.5 lb
6 W. H. Anderson (P) 1st Trinity 11 st 4 lb A. C. Yarborough Lincoln 11 st 11 lb
7 J. Still Gonville and Caius 12 st 1 lb W. D. Benson Balliol 11 st 7 lb
Stroke J. H. D. Goldie St John's 12 st 1 lb S. D. Darbishire Balliol 11 st 8.5 lb
Cox H. E. Gordon 1st Trinity 7 st 8 lb D. A Neilson St John's 7 st 10.5 lb
(P) – boat club president[13]


The Championship Course, along which the race is conducted

According to The Field, "the weather was not the most agreeable for a boat-race ... a raw wind ... leaden-coloured clouds overhanging the river".[14] Oxford, who were strong pre-race favourites,[7] won the toss and elected to start from the Middlesex station, handing the Surrey station to Cambridge.[11] Although the Light Blues made the faster start, Oxford soon pulled alongside them and by the London Rowing Club boathouse, held a lead of around 10 feet (3 m). Cambridge closed the gap but Oxford pulled away again. The lead was exchanged once again and Oxford took the lead at Craven Cottage. Despite erratic steering from Oxford's cox Darbishire, Oxford held the advantage until the crews shot Hammersmith Bridge, at which point the Light Blues held the lead by one third of a length.[15]

Still in the lead by The Doves pub, Cambridge steered too close to the bank and allowed Oxford to close the gap and passed Chiswick Eyot in the lead, with a half-length advantage by Chiswick Church. The Dark Blues passed under Barnes Bridge with a two-length lead and completed the course, passing the Ship Tavern three lengths clear in a time of 20 minutes 4 seconds.[16] It was their ninth consecutive victory and took the overall record to 16–10 in their favour. The winning time was the fastest ever, beating the previous record set in 1868 by 52 seconds, although some doubt was cast over the positioning of the finish which was believed to have made the course approximately 100 yards (91 m) shorter. The record would stand until the 1873 race.[4][17]



  1. ^ a b "Dark Blues aim to punch above their weight". The Observer. 6 April 2003. Archived from the original on 11 September 2014. Retrieved 1 September 2014.
  2. ^ Smith, Oliver (25 March 2014). "University Boat Race 2014: spectators' guide". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 1 July 2014. Retrieved 3 June 2014.
  3. ^ "The Course". The Boat Race Company Limited. Archived from the original on 28 October 2014. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
  4. ^ a b "Boat Race – Results". The Boat Race Company Limited. Archived from the original on 12 July 2016. Retrieved 26 October 2014.
  5. ^ a b MacMichael, p. 351
  6. ^ Burnell, p. 100
  7. ^ a b Drinkwater, p. 62
  8. ^ MacMichael, p. 354
  9. ^ MacMichael, pp. 354–355
  10. ^ Burnell, pp. 49, 97
  11. ^ a b c Burnell, p. 59
  12. ^ MacMichael, p. 356
  13. ^ Burnell, pp. 50–51
  14. ^ MacMichael, p. 355
  15. ^ MacMichael, pp. 356–357
  16. ^ MacMichael, p. 358
  17. ^ Drinkwater, p. 63


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