The Boat Race 1948

The 94th Boat Race took place on 27 March 1948. Held annually, the Boat Race is a side-by-side rowing race between crews from the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge along the River Thames. In a race umpired by the former rower Claude Taylor, Cambridge won by five lengths in a record time of 17 minutes and 50 seconds, beating the existing record set in the 1934 race. The victory, their second in a row, took the overall record in the race to 50–43 in Cambridge's favour.

94th Boat Race
Date27 March 1948
Margin of victory5 lengths
Winning time17 minutes 50 seconds
Overall record
UmpireClaude Taylor
Other races
Women's winnerCambridge


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] First held in 1829, the race takes place on the 4.2 miles (6.8 km) Championship Course on the River Thames in southwest London.[2] The rivalry is a major point of honour between the two universities; it is followed throughout the United Kingdom and, as of 2014, broadcast worldwide.[3][4] Cambridge went into the race as reigning champions, having won the 1947 race by ten lengths, and led overall with 50 victories to Oxford's 43 (excluding the "dead heat" of 1877).[5][6]

Oxford's coaches were R. E. Eason (who rowed for the Dark Blues in the 1924 race), J. H. Page and D. T. Raikes (who represented Oxford in the 1920, 1921 and 1922 races). Cambridge were coached by F. E. Hellyer (who rowed for the Light Blues in the 1910 and 1911 races), Kenneth Payne (who rowed for Cambridge in the 1932 and 1934 races), Harold Rickett (a Light Blue three times between 1930 and 1932) and Peter Haig-Thomas (a four-time Light Blue between 1902 and 1905).[7] The umpire for the race was the former Cambridge rower Claude Taylor who had represented the Light Blues in the 1901, 1902 and 1903 races.[8]

The rowing correspondent for The Manchester Guardian anticipated a close race: "the prospects of Oxford and Cambridge for this year's University Boat-race on Saturday have now become much more even".[9] His counterpart at The Times was in agreement: "it really seems that whichever crew gets off best in the first two minutes will probably win the race."[10]


The Oxford crew weighed an average of 12 st 9.375 lb (80.3 kg), 1.375 pounds (0.62 kg) per rower more than their opponents. Cambridge saw three rowers return to the crew with Boat Race experience, including their stroke A. P. Mellows. Oxford's boat also contained three former Blues, J. R. W. Gleave, P. N. Brodie and A. J. R. Purssell, all of whom were making their third appearances.[11] Three of the participants were registered as non-British: Oxford's G. C. Fisk and W. W. Woodward, and Cambridge's Brian Harrison were all from Australia.[12]

Seat Oxford
Name College Weight Name College Weight
Bow G. C. Fisk Oriel 12 st 1.5 lb A. P. Mellows Clare 12 st 1 lb
2 J. R. W. Gleave Magdalen 12 st 7 lb D. J. C. Meyrick Trinity Hall 11 st 4 lb
3 A. D. Rowe Trinity 12 st 12 lb P. A. de Giles Queens' 12 st 3 lb
4 W. W. Woodward Brasenose 13 st 3.5 lb G. C. Richardson (P) Magdalene 12 st 11 lb
5 R. A. Noel Christ Church 12 st 13.5 lb A. B. C. Harrison 1st & 3rd Trinity 13 st 12 lb
6 R. L. Arundel Merton 14 st 4 lb E. A. P. Bircher Christ's 13 st 8 lb
7 P. N. Brodie (P) Oriel 11 st 8 lb M. C. Lapage Selwyn 13 st 0 lb
Stroke A. J. R. Purssell Oriel 11 st 11.5 lb C. D. R. Barton Jesus 11 st 11 lb
Cox R. G. B. Faulkner Trinity 9 st 0 lb K. T. Lindsay Jesus 8 st 13 lb
(P) – boat club president[14]


The Championship Course along which the Boat Race is contested

Cambridge won the toss and elected to start from the Middlesex station, handing the Surrey side of the river to Oxford. The race was started at 3:30 p.m. by Taylor.[11] The Light Blues out-rated their opponents from the start but soon after their number six, Paul Bircher "caught a crab", allowing Oxford to take a half-length lead which they extended to three-quarters of a length by Craven Steps.[15] Despite having stopped to allow Bircher to recover his oar, Cambridge drew level and were over a quarter of a length ahead by the time the crews passed the Mile Post, yet nine seconds off record pace and rowing into a head wind. Cambridge were a length ahead at Harrods Furniture Depository and drew clear as the boats passed below Hammersmith Bridge.[16]

As the crews passed the training ship HMS Stork, Cambridge began to draw away and were two lengths ahead by Chiswick Steps.[16] With a strong tailwind along Corney Reach, the Light Blues continued to pull ahead and passed below Barnes Bridge four lengths ahead, and six seconds ahead of the course record. Cambridge passed the finishing post five lengths ahead in a time of 17 minutes 50 seconds. The victory, Cambridge's second in a row, and third in the last four races, took the overall record in the race to 50–43 in their favour.[5] The special correspondent writing in The Observer called it "the maddest Boat Race for years".[17] The Times' rowing correspondent suggested it was "a great triumph for the Cambridge coaches, who so often seem able to produce something out of the bag which has not been apparent in practice."[16] Writing in The Manchester Guardian, the rowing correspondent noted that it was "strange that Cambridge had never shown anything like this form in practice".[18]



  1. ^ a b "Dark Blues aim to punch above their weight". The Observer. 6 April 2003. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  2. ^ Smith, Oliver (25 March 2014). "University Boat Race 2014: spectators' guide". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  3. ^ "Former Winnipegger in winning Oxford–Cambridge Boat Race crew". CBC News. 6 April 2014. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  4. ^ "TV and radio". The Boat Race Company Limited. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  5. ^ a b "Boat Race – Results". The Boat Race Company Limited. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
  6. ^ "Classic moments – the 1877 dead heat". The Boat Race Company Limited. Archived from the original on 28 October 2014. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
  7. ^ Burnell, pp. 110–111
  8. ^ Burnell, pp. 49, 67–68
  9. ^ "Close Boat-race expected". The Manchester Guardian. 25 March 1948. p. 6.
  10. ^ "Prospects of a close race" (51030). 27 March 1948. p. 4.
  11. ^ a b Burnell, p. 76
  12. ^ Burnell, p. 39
  13. ^ Dodd, p. 332
  14. ^ Burnell, pp. 50, 52
  15. ^ Thomson, G. I. F. (28 March 1948). "Cambridge break all records". The Observer. p. 8.
  16. ^ a b c "Cambridge win in record time". The Times (51031). 29 March 1948. p. 6.
  17. ^ "Cambridge cut 13 seconds off race record". The Observer. 28 March 1948. p. 1.
  18. ^ "Cambridge win in record time". The Manchester Guardian. 29 March 1948. p. 2.


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