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The Boat Race 1839

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3rd Boat Race
Date 3 April 1839 (1839-04-03)
Winner Cambridge
Margin of victory 35 lengths
Winning time 31 minutes
Overall record
Umpire C. B. Wollaston (Oxford)
C. J. Selwyn (Cambridge)
W. H. Harrison (referee)

The 3rd Boat Race took place on the River Thames on 3 April 1839. It was the second of the University Boat Races to be held on the River Thames, this time between Westminster and Putney. Cambridge had competed against Leander Club in 1837 and 1838; it had been three years since Oxford and Cambridge raced against one another. Representatives of both universities and an independent referee oversaw the proceedings. Cambridge won the race by 35 lengths, as of 2014 the largest winning margin in the history of the event.


The 1839 race took place between Westminster and Putney bridges.

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 takes place on the River Thames in southwest London.[2][3] No race between the two universities was held in 1837 or 1838, instead Cambridge raced against Leander Club those years.[4] The umpires for the race were C. B. Wollaston (for Oxford) and C. J. Selwyn (for Cambridge), while W. H. Harrison acted as referee.[5]

Cambridge's boat was constructed by Searle of Stangate, while Oxford's "beautifully constructed" vessel was built by King of Oxford.[6] The race was scheduled to take place on a five-and-three-quarter-mile stretch between Westminster Bridge and Putney Bridge.[7] Oxford were trained by a Thames waterman while Cambridge were guided by their cox, Thomas Selby Egan.[6]


The Oxford crew weighed an average of 11 st 10.5 lb (74.4 kg) per rower, almost 10 pounds (4.5 kg) more per man than their opponents.[8] None of the Oxford crew from the 1836 featured in this year's race; however, both the stroke Edmund Stanley and cox Egan returned for Cambridge, the former being described by Bell's Life as "really terrific, one of the severest we ever saw".[9] Oxford's boat club president was Calverley Bewicke who rowed at stroke for the Dark Blues, while Cambridge had a non-rowing president in Augustus Granville.[10]

William Baliol Brett rowed at number seven for Cambridge.
Seat Cambridge
University of Cambridge coat of arms.svg
Name College Weight Name College Weight
Bow Alfred Hudson Shadwell St John's 10 st 7 lb Stanlake Lee Queen's 10 st 4 lb
2 Warington W. Smyth Trinity 11 st 0 lb Berdmore Compton Merton 11 st 5 lb
3 J. Abercrombie Gonville & Caius 10 st 7 lb Samuel Edward Maberly Christ Church 11 st 4 lb
4 A. Paris Corpus Christi 11 st 4 lb Wm. Jas. Garnett Christ Church 12 st 10 lb
5 C. T. Penrose Trinity 12 st 0 lb R. G. Walls Brasenose 13 st 0 lb
6 W. H. Yatman double-dagger Gonville & Caius 10 st 10 lb R. Hobhouse Balliol 12 st 0 lb
7 W. B. Brett Gonville & Caius 12 st 0 lb Philip Lybbe Powys Balliol 12 st 0 lb
Stroke E. Stanley Jesus 10 st 6 lb Calverley Bewicke (P) University 12 st 0 lb
Cox T. S. Egan Gonville & Caius 9 st 0 lb Woodforde Ffooks Exeter 10 st 2 lb
(P) – boat club president[10]
double-dagger – Yatman replaced Vialls of Trinity College through illness two days before the race[12]


[Cambridge] wore white guernseys and white straw hats with light blue ribbons, the steerer having a rosette of the same colour on his breast. The Oxonians wore dark blue guernseys with white stripes, dark straw hats with dark blue ribbons.


The umpires for the race were Charles Woolaston and C. J. Selwyn, while W. Harrison Esq, the Commodore of the Royal Thames Yacht Club, fulfilled the position of referee.[12] The race was held on a Wednesday, 3 April 1839, the start time of "precisely" 4.47pm, in conditions described by MacMichael as "cold, cloudy and windy, and just the very worst sort of day for an aquatic expedition".[12][14] According to Bell's Life, Cambridge were slight favourites.[15] Oxford won the toss and elected to commence closest to the Middlesex shore of the river.[12] After a close start, the Cambridge boat started to draw away and by Vauxhall Bridge were "several boats' lengths" ahead.[16] They increased their lead further by Battersea Bridge and shot Putney Bridge 1 minute 45 seconds ahead,[17] and won by a margin of 35 lengths which remains, as of 2014, the largest in the history of the event.[18] Cambridge's victory took them to an overall lead in the event of 2–1.[19]



  1. ^ a b "Dark Blues aim to punch above their weight". The Observer. 6 April 2003. Retrieved 1 September 2014.
  2. ^ Smith, Oliver (25 March 2014). "University Boat Race 2014: spectators' guide". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 1 September 2014.
  3. ^ "The Course". The Boat Race Company Limited. Retrieved 1 September 2014.
  4. ^ MacMichael, pp. 55–57
  5. ^ Burnell, p. 49
  6. ^ a b MacMichael, p. 58
  7. ^ "The Boat Race". Oxford University Boat Club. Archived from the original on 21 April 2014. Retrieved 30 September 2014.
  8. ^ a b Dodd, p. 287
  9. ^ MacMichael, pp. 57, 59
  10. ^ a b Burnell, pp. 50–51
  11. ^ MacMichael, p. 59
  12. ^ a b c d MacMichael, p. 60
  13. ^ MacMichael, p. 61
  14. ^ "Boat Race – Early races". The Boat Race Company Limited. Retrieved 22 April 2014.
  15. ^ MacMichael, pp. 58–59
  16. ^ MacMichael, p. 61
  17. ^ MacMichael, pp. 61–62
  18. ^ "Boat Race 2014: a history of pain, mutiny and sinkings". The Week. 4 April 2014. Retrieved 30 September 2014.
  19. ^ "Boat Race – Results". The Boat Race Company Limited. Retrieved 26 October 2014.


  • Burnell, Richard (1979). One Hundred and Fifty Years of the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race. Precision Press. ISBN 978-0-9500638-7-4.
  • Dodd, Christopher (1983). The Oxford & Cambridge Boat Race. Stanley Paul. ISBN 978-0-09-151340-5.
  • Drinkwater, G. C.; Sanders, T. R. B. (1929). The University Boat Race – Official Centenary History. Cassell & Company, Ltd.
  • MacMichael, William Fisher (1870). The Oxford and Cambridge Boat Races: From A.D. 1829 to 1869. Deighton.

External links

  • Official website

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