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The Boat Race 1986

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132nd Boat Race
Date 29 March 1986 (1986-03-29)
Winner Cambridge
Margin of victory 7 lengths
Winning time 17 minutes 58 seconds
Overall record
Umpire Mike Sweeney
Other races
Reserve winner Isis
Women's winner Oxford

The 132nd Boat Race took place on 29 March 1986. 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. Cambridge won by seven lengths and took their first victory in eleven years, in one of the fastest winning times in the history of the event. Cambridge was coxed for the first time by a woman, Carole Burton. Isis won the reserve race, while Oxford 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-mile (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 went into the race as reigning champions, having beaten Cambridge by four-and-three-quarter lengths in the previous year's race. However Cambridge held the overall lead, with 68 victories to Oxford's 62, despite Oxford having won the previous ten races.[5]

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.[6] 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.[7]

The race was sponsored by Ladbrokes for the tenth consecutive year,[8] estimated to be worth about £30,000 to each boat club,[9] and was umpired by former Cambridge rower Mike Sweeney.[10]


The Oxford crew weighed an average of over 5 pounds (2.3 kg) per rower more than Cambridge.[10] Cambridge's crew featured only two rowers over the age of 24 while Oxford had just three men under 25.[11] Oxford saw three Blues return while Cambridge welcomed back four. The Cambridge crew featured three international rowers: two Canadians (Gibson and Wilson), and the American Pew. The Light Blue cox, Carole Burton, was the first woman to steer the Cambridge boat.[12] Oxford's MacDonald was the oldest in the race at the age of 30, he was accompanied in the boat by international rowers Clark and Livingstone from the United States and Jones from Australia.[5] Dan Topolski was the Oxford coach while Cambridge relied on Alan Inns and Canadian Olympic coach Neil Campbell.[10] Cambridge were clear favourites to win, but prior to the race, Topolski claimed his crew had "pulled themselves back into contention by sheer hard work."[13]

Seat Oxford
University of Cambridge coat of arms.svg
Name College Weight Name College Weight
Bow G R Screaton Merton 13 st 7 lb I R Clarke Fitzwilliam 12 st 9 lb
2 D H M Macdonald Mansfield 13 st 12 lb M Wilson Trinity Hall 12 st 9 lb
3 M R Dunstan Worcester 13 st 7 lb J D Hughes Downing 13 st 10 lb
4 G R D Jones New College 13 st 11 lb J S Pew 1st and 3rd Trinity 15 st 1 lb
5 B M Philp (P) Worcester 15 st 9 lb S M Peel Downing 14 st 0 lb
6 C G H Clark University 14 st 13 lb P M Broughton Magdalene 13 st 11 lb
7 G A Livingston Oriel 14 st 1 lb E A F Gibson Churchill 13 st 4 lb
Stroke A M S Thomas Pembroke 13 st 13 lb J M Pritchard Robinson 14 st 1 lb
Cox A S Green Christ Church 7 st 12 lb C A Burton Fitzwilliam 6 st 9 lb
(P) – boat club president (Cambridge had a non-rowing president in Quintus Travis).[5]


Oxford won the toss and elected to start from the Surrey station. The predicted severe wind did not materialise and from the start, Cambridge pulled ahead.[14] A half-length lead by the end of Putney boathouses became a two length lead by Hammersmith Bridge, and Cambridge's cox Burton steered towards the safer Surrey side, extending Cambridge's lead to 14 seconds by Chiswick Steps. Continuing to pull away, Cambridge passed the finishing post 21 seconds and seven lengths ahead of Oxford. It was the sixth fastest time in the history of the race.[14] This was Cambridge's first victory in eleven years and took the overall record to 69–62 in favour of Cambridge.[7]

In the reserve race, Oxford's Isis beat Cambridge's Goldie by six lengths, while Oxford won the 41st Women's Boat Race.[7]


The trophy was presented by former Cambridge student Prince Edward.[15] Cambridge stroke John Pritchard said "After our initial start we built up for 20 strokes, steadied and then just grinded away."[14] He added "I was just stirring the tea while the others did the work."[10] Cambridge cox Carole Burton noted "I went where I wanted to go."[16] Following tradition, Pritchard picked her up and threw her into the river.[15] Oxford's Jones remarked "we were as well prepared as last year but we found no magic."[16] Topolski conceded that even had Oxford been at their best, they would still have lost the race.[17]


  1. ^ a b "Dark Blues aim to punch above their weight". The Observer. 6 April 2003. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  2. ^ Smith, Oliver (25 March 2014). "University Boat Race 2014: spectators' guide". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  3. ^ "Former Winnipegger in winning Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race crew". CBC News. 6 April 2014. Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  4. ^ "TV and radio". The Boat Race Company Limited. Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c Dodd, Christopher (29 March 1986). "Light Blues to win at last". The Guardian. p. 15. 
  6. ^ "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. 
  7. ^ a b c "Boat Race – Results". The Boat Race Company Limited. Retrieved 12 June 2014. 
  8. ^ Railton, Jim; Barnes, Simon (6 April 1985). "Boat Race interest stimulated by a clash of style and contrasting motivation". The Times (62105). p. 30. 
  9. ^ Dodd, Christopher (26 March 1986). "Oxford's challenge carries more weight". The Guardian. p. 29. 
  10. ^ a b c d e Railton, Jim (29 March 1986). "Oxford must spring to life to extend run". The Times (62417). p. 40. 
  11. ^ Miller, David. "Veterans' domination leaves schoolboys with the blues". The Times (62418). p. 32. 
  12. ^ "Boat Race facts and figures". The Independent. 5 April 1996. Retrieved 2 April 2017. 
  13. ^ Donne, Michael (29 March 1986). "A Light Blue revival?". The Financial Times (29891). p. 14. 
  14. ^ a b c Railton, Jim (31 March 1986). "Cambridge show their faith in steady state". The Times (62418). p. 30. 
  15. ^ a b Reardon, John (30 March 1986). "Splashing victory for cox Carole". The Observer. p. 1. 
  16. ^ a b Jennings, Roger (30 March 1986). "Cambridge's wait is over". The Observer. p. 49. 
  17. ^ Keating, Frank (31 March 1986). "Topolski's men toppled at last". The Guardian. p. 17. 

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