Tuesday, April 2, 2013
From Pine To Plastic
HTBS’s Tim Koch writes from London,
In the 2013 University Boat Race, Oxford rowed in a German ‘Empacher’ while Cambridge used a Canadian ‘Hudson’. ‘Hear The Boat Sing’ has previously noted that once the boats for the ‘Battle of the Blues’ were not only made in Britain, they were produced from wood just a few feet from the Boat Race course. However, one hour before the start of the 159th Oxford - Cambridge clash, there was a race from Hammersmith to Putney (‘The Watermen’s Challenge’) which involved traditional British made craft. It included replicas of the two boats used in the first Oxford - Cambridge race in 1829.
The ‘Oxbridge Cutters’ (as the pair are known) were commissioned by The Boat Race Company Ltd to celebrate the 150th Boat Race in 2004. Like the original boats, the design was strongly influenced by Cornish Pilot Gigs, though the Oxbridge boats are made of pine, not elm, and are eight-oared, not six. Originally the replicas were painted in the original colours, green for Oxford and pink for Cambridge. Today, they have been repainted in the accepted dark blue and light blue. Last February they were given on long term loan to the charity, London Youth Rowing. It is good to know that the cutters will now be in regular use and will help to bring young people into the sport of rowing – truly ‘living history’.
P.S. The original Oxford boat of 1829 is on now on display at the River and Rowing Museum in Henley. A famous picture of this boat and its 1929 successor is here.