Photograph: Werner Schmidt

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

From Pine To Plastic

The (real) Cambridge Boat of 2013.

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 (replica) Cambridge Boat of 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.

The replica Oxford Boat of 1829. As there are no outriggers and because the boat is wider in the middle than at the bow and stern, the oars are of different lengths to produce a uniform span.

The sleeve is made of leather and the button is of rope. The oars are rowed ‘square blade’ and are not feathered.

The seating is staggered, not in line, with starboard side rowers sitting on port and visa-versa.


  1. The event Tim refers too was in fact the Oxbridge Watermen's Challenge run by the Thames Traditional Rowing Assoc. ( For the past five years the Watermen's cutters from the City of London Livery Companies and Organisations have raced over the last 2 miles of THE Boat Race course for the Tallow Chandler's Cup (for the fastest time). After rowing down from ULBC we have mass starts of up to (as this year) seven abreast, which was a little hopeful!, from Hammersmith Bridge racing to the Boat Race finish line (about 15mins). As Tim has pointed out the Oxbridge 1829 gigs, following a long overdue refurbishment by Mark Edwards (builder of QRB 'Gloriana'), raced with crews from London Youth Rowing completeing the course in 14:09. They made a fine sight and we hope they'll return next year with youth crews.
    The next event the traditional oarsmen and women will be out on the Thames will be on the 21st April for the Tudor Pull. The Royal Watermen will row the Queen's Row Barge 'Gloriana' from Hampton Court Palace to HM Tower of London - their marathon on the day of the London Marathon. More details from the TTRA Face Book page.
    Look out for all these lovely old and replica boats as they are still very much part of the River Thames as you saw lst year...there by lies another tale or two!!

  2. Hi Goran.
    I'm very happy to provide more information about what we are doing on the Thames. Is this the best way to communicate? or see the TTRA web site and I'll reply. Keep up the great work.

  3. Hello Malcolm ~ I would happily post anything you write about these events on HTBS (and pictures, too). Send it to me at: gbuckhorn(at-sign)