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The Boat Race 1841

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5th Boat Race
1841 Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race.jpg
The Boat Race of 1841
Date 14 April 1841 (1841-04-14)
Winner Cambridge
Margin of victory 22 lengths
Winning time 32 minutes 30 seconds
Overall record
Umpire R. G. Walls (Oxford)
T. S. Egan (Cambridge)
Mr Antrobus (referee)

The 5th Boat Race took place on the River Thames on 14 April 1841. It was the fourth of the University Boat Races, a side-by-side rowing competition between the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge, to be contested in London. The race was held between Westminster Bridge and Putney Bridge and was won by Cambridge, whose crew featured two pairs of brothers rowing, who defeated Oxford by a distance of 22 lengths in a time of 32 minutes and 30 seconds. The victory took the overall record in the event to 4–1 in Cambridge's favour.


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] Cambridge went into the race as reigning champions, having won the previous year's race by three-quarters of a length.[4]

There was some disagreement over the day selected for the race, mainly in an attempt to coincide with a suitable tide.[5] The Cambridge cox for the 1839 race, Thomas Selby Egan, along with Oxford's R. G. Walls were umpires for the race along with referee Edmund Antrobus from St John's College, Cambridge.[6] Both universities rowed in boats constructed by Searle of Stangate;[6][7] the vessels were "justly and generally admired", the only significant difference between them being that Oxford's boat was carvel built while Cambridge's was clinker built.[8] The race took place on a five-and-three-quarter-mile (9.2 km) stretch of the Thames between Westminster Bridge and Putney Bridge.[9][10] No arrangements had been made for the police to keep the course clear: according to Cambridge's number seven George Denman "it was often ticklish work for the coxswains to decide whether to go ahead or astern of a train of barges catering across the river".[11] According to a report in The Morning Chronicle, "both crews ... have agreed that the match will be off if any of the steamers attempt to lead".[12]

Oxford arrived at the Thames fifteen days prior the race, and rowed the full course; Cambridge started their practice runs four days later,[5] often racing against a crew from the Cambridge Subscription Room (who subsequently won the Grand Challenge Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta).[13] George Denman suffered an injury during practice, struck "by a tremendous blow on the shoulder" which was all but cured by the application of "just one leech".[14] Oxford's crew was not settled until three days before the race, when they competed against a crew from Leander Club.[8]


The Cambridge crew weighed an average of 11 st 4.625 lb (71.8 kg), 0.5 pounds (0.2 kg) per rower more than their Dark Blue opposition.[6] Cambridge's crew contained three Blues: John Matthew Ridley, Francis Penrose and Charles Marsh Vialls, all of whom had rowed in the previous year's race. Similarly, Oxford saw the return of four members with Boat Race experience: Jacob G. Mountain, E. Royds, G. Meynell and J. J. T. Somers-Cocks.[15] For the first time in the history of the race, two pairs of brothers rowed for Cambridge, the Crokers (Joseph and William) and the Denmans (George and Lewis).[16][17]

George Denman rowed at number seven for Cambridge.
Seat Cambridge
University of Cambridge coat of arms.svg
Name College Weight Name College Weight
Bow W. Croker Gonville and Caius 9 st 12 lb Richard Bethell Exeter 10 st 6 lb
2 Hon. L. Denman Magdalene 10 st 12 lb Ed. Vaughan Richards Christ Church 11 st 2 lb
3 A. M. Ritchie 1st Trinity 11 st 10 lb J. G. Mountain Merton 10 st 9 lb
4 J. M. Ridley Jesus 12 st 7 lb E. Royds Brasenose 11 st 13 lb
5 R. H. Cobbold Peterhouse 12 st 4 lb H. Wm. Hodgson Balliol 11 st 10 lb
6 F. C. Penrose Magdalene 12 st 0 lb Wm. Lea Brasenose 11 st 7 lb
7 Hon. G. Denman 1st Trinity 10 st 7 lb G. Meynell Brasenose 11 st 11 lb
Stroke C. M. Vialls (P) 3rd Trinity 11 st 7 lb J. J. T. Somers-Cocks (P) Brasenose 11 st 3 lb
Cox J. M. Croker Gonville and Caius 10 st 8 lb Charles B. Woolaston Exeter 9 st 2 lb
(P) – boat club president[18]


The 1841 race took place between Westminster and Putney bridges.

Cambridge were considered favourites for the race, mainly as they had won the previous three races on the Thames.[5] The Light Blues won the toss and elected to start at the first arch from the centre of Westminster Bridge on the Surrey side, Oxford from the next arch along. The race commenced at 6:10 p.m., with the Light Blues making the better start, taking an early lead,[8] and getting clear by Lambeth. A lead of at least two lengths by Vauxhall Bridge was extended to around six lengths by Battersea Bridge.[19]

Cambridge won by 22 lengths in a time of 32 minutes 30 seconds. It was their fourth consecutive victory and took the overall record to 4–1 in their favour.[4] Despite earlier fears, "the steamers were well managed, and offered no obstruction to the boats".[8]



  1. ^ a b "Dark Blues aim to punch above their weight". The Observer. 6 April 2003. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  2. ^ Smith, Oliver (25 March 2014). "University Boat Race 2014: spectators' guide". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  3. ^ "The Course". The Boat Race Company Limited. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  4. ^ a b "Boat Race – Results". The Boat Race Company Limited. Retrieved 26 October 2014.
  5. ^ a b c "Cambridge and Oxford Boat Race". Cambridge Independent Press. 10 April 1841. p. 3. (subscription required)
  6. ^ a b c d MacMichael, p. 89
  7. ^ Burnell, p. 49
  8. ^ "The Boat Race". Oxford University Boat Club. Archived from the original on 21 April 2014. Retrieved 22 April 2014.
  9. ^ "Putney". British History Online. Retrieved 29 October 2014.
  10. ^ Dodd, p. 88
  11. ^ "The Oxford and Cambridge eight-oared match". The Morning Chronicle. 13 April 1841. p. 4. (subscription required)
  12. ^ MacMichael, pp. 84–85
  13. ^ Dodd, p. 89
  14. ^ Drinkwater, p. 18
  15. ^ Burnell, p. 42
  16. ^ Drinkwater, p. 19
  17. ^ Burnell, pp. 50–51
  18. ^ MacMichael, p. 88


  • 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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