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The Boat Race 1983

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129th Boat Race
Date 2 April 1983
Winner Oxford
Margin of victory 4 and 1/2 lengths
Winning time 19 minutes 7 seconds
Overall record
Other races
Reserve winner Isis
Women's winner Cambridge

The 129th Boat Race took place on 2 April 1983. Held annually, the event is a side-by-side rowing race between crews from the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge along the River Thames. The pre-race preparation saw Cambridge threaten to boycott the race for the first time, following the inclusion of Boris Rankov in the Oxford boat. The crews were the two heaviest in the history of the event, and featured ten former Boat Race competitors. Oxford won the race by four-and-a-half lengths.

Isis won the reserve race, while Cambridge were victorious in the Women's Boat Race.


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 and followed throughout the United Kingdom and broadcast worldwide.[3][4] Oxford were the reigning champions, having beaten Cambridge by three-and-a-quarter lengths in the previous year's race. However, Cambridge held the overall lead, with 68 victories to Oxford's 59. The race was sponsored by Ladbrokes;[5] the winner was awarded the Ladbrokes Trophy.[6]

On 7 March 1983, Cambridge issued a statement suggesting that they might boycott the race following a dispute over Oxford's selection of Boris Rankov as a member of their crew.[5] Veteran of the previous five Boat Races, all of which were Dark Blue victories, Cambridge argued Rankov was ineligible for inclusion as he was a lecturer at the university.[7] Coach David Townsend of the University of London offered the services of his crew to provide an opponent for Oxford, should Cambridge refuse to participate.[8] Rankov himself had offered to withdraw from the race, but the Dark Blues' committee rejected this.[8] Cambridge finally agreed to race after they reached an agreement with Oxford to discuss and possibly tighten the eligibility criteria.[7] This ultimately led to establishment of the so-called "Rankov Rule", which states that oarsmen will compete in the race no more than four times as an undergraduate and no more than four times as a graduate.[9]

The first Women's Boat Race took place in 1927, but did not become an annual fixture until the 1960s. Up until 2014, the contest was conducted as part of the Henley Boat Races, but as of the 2015 race, it is held on the River Thames, on the same day as the men's main and reserve races.[10] The reserve race, contested between Oxford's Isis boat and Cambridge's Goldie boat has been held since 1965. It usually takes place on the Tideway, prior to the main Boat Race.[11]


The two crews were the heaviest in Boat Race history, Oxford averaging 14 stonelbs (92.3 kg) per rower, nearly 7 pounds (3.2 kg) a man heavier than the Cambridge crew, and were pre-race favourites to win an eighth consecutive race.[12] Cambridge's crew featured six unsuccessful Blues, while Oxford's boat contained four Blues with ten Boat Race victories between them.[12] While seven of the Oxford rowers were international post-graduates, Cambridge's crew included seven undergraduates.[13] The average age of the Oxford crew was 25, four years more than Cambridge.[8]

Seat Oxford
University of Cambridge coat of arms.svg
Name College Weight Name College Weight
Bow W J Lang Magdalen 14 st 13 lb E MD Pearson Jesus 12 st 10 lb
2 H E Clay Magdalen 14 st 6 lb A R Knight Clare 12 st 9 lb
3 H P Yonge New College 14 st 8 lb B M Philp Downing 15 st 5 lb
4 G R D Jones New College 14 st 5 lb C D Heard Lady Margaret Boat Club 15 st 7 lb
5 N B Rankov St Hugh's 15 st 5 lb S W Berger 1st Trinity 15 st 5 lb
6 J M Evans University 14 st 6 lb P R W Sheppard Lady Margaret Boat Club 15 st 11 lb
7 W M Evans University 14 st 6 lb J L Garrett Lady Margaret Boat Club 14 st 7 lb
Stroke J L Bland Merton 14 st 4 lb S A Harris Queens' ?
Cox S E Higgins Exeter 8 st 0 lb I Bernstein Emmanuel 7 st 10 lb


The Championship Course along which the Boat Race is contested

Cambridge won the toss and elected to start from the Surrey station.[6] Oxford, rowing at a higher rate, took an early lead and were clear of Cambridge by the Mile Post. Extending their lead to six seconds by Hammersmith Bridge, Oxford pushed on to lead by nine seconds at Chiswick Steps.[6] Despite trying to keep in touch, Cambridge were four lengths behind at Barnes Bridge and trailed by 13 seconds as Oxford passed the finishing post.[6] Oxford won by four-and-a-half lengths in a time of 19 minutes 7 seconds.[11]

This was Oxford's eighth consecutive victory, and their ninth in ten years, and took the overall record to 68–60 in favour of Cambridge.[11] The race was watched by 14 million television viewers.[13]

In the reserve race, Oxford's Isis beat Cambridge's Goldie by six-and-a-half lengths,[6] while Cambridge won the 38th Women's Boat Race.[11]


  1. ^ a b "Dark Blues aim to punch above their weight". The Observer. 6 April 2003. Retrieved 8 April 2014.
  2. ^ Smith, Oliver (25 March 2014). "University Boat Race 2014: spectators' guide". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 3 June 2014.
  3. ^ "Former Winnipegger in winning Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race crew". CBC News. 6 April 2014. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  4. ^ "TV and radio". The Boat Race Company Limited. Retrieved 5 July 2014.
  5. ^ a b Railton, Jim (8 March 1983). "Growing threat to Boat Race". The Times (61475). p. 24.
  6. ^ a b c d e Railton, Jim (4 April 1983). "Hearts as big as their boat". The Times (61497). p. 12.
  7. ^ a b "Sports People; Crew Dispute Settled". The New York Times. 11 March 1983.
  8. ^ a b c Miller, David (10 March 1983). "Oxford go overboard with their powerboat politics". The Times (61477). p. 19.
  9. ^ Davies, Gareth A. (27 March 2009). "60 Second Interview: Boris Rankov, Boat Race Umpire". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 11 June 2014.
  10. ^ "A brief history of the Women's Boat Race". The Boat Race Company Limited. Archived from the original on 6 October 2014. Retrieved 5 July 2014.
  11. ^ a b c d "Boat Race – Results". The Boat Race Company Limited. Retrieved 11 June 2014.
  12. ^ a b c Railton, Jim (2 April 1983). "Cambridge need some help from the Tideway". The Times (61496). p. 17.
  13. ^ a b Miller, David (4 April 1983). "Beware jock-strap crew". The Times (61497). p. 12.

External links

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