It’s The Races today. Not Ascot, silly: The Oxford and Cambridge! I’ve always been a Cambridge supporter. Why? It was all about Maurice, the luminous 1987 Merchant Ivory film set in Cambridge, with James Wilby and a floppy-haired Hugh Grant. Cambridge seemed the most romantic place on the planet. I imagined every rower there was a Hugh Grant, a Rupert Everett or a Julian Sands. These days, it might be Sidney Chambers, aka James Norton, a Cambridge graduate turned sexy vicar. Wouldn’t that be a divine sight to behold!
The Dove Pub
I’m blessed to live on the Mall in Hammersmith. It seems far-removed from the hustle and bustle of frenetic London.
The Dove Pub, or Oar-some pub as it likes to be called, is my local, and it’s famous for more than its Honeydew Ale. Rule Britannia was penned upstairs, and the pub also features in the Guinness Book of Records as home to the smallest bar room in the world.
Charles II, Nell Gwynne, Graham Greene and Hemingway used to hang out in my hang out. The Dove pub is also the place to watch the Oxford and Cambridge races. Furnivall Gardens next door becomes a pleasure-dome for the revellers, waiting for a whirlwind view of the race.
Racy Oxford and Cambridge Facts
The Oxford and Cambridge race is 4.2 miles long, starting at Putney Bridge and ending at Chiswick Bridge. It takes an estimated 600 strokes of practice for every stroke in the race. The first race was in 1829, and the current record is 16 minutes, 19 seconds, set by Cambridge in 1998.
There have been six sinkings in the race’s history, and Hugh Laurie, racing for Cambridge in 1980, narrowly lost that year due to a clash of oars. Cambridge has a total of 82 wins under its belt, whilst Oxford has 79.
The Harrods Depository
Another key landmark from which to watch the races is the Harrods Depository. Built in 1894 as a storage centre for the department store, it’s now, you guessed it, a luxury gated development. If you look at Hammersmith Bridge, you’ll notice a startling similarity with the gold and green used on the fascia of the world’s most famous department store!
Time to Oar-Off
It’s a blustery day for the races today, but we Londoners are out in full swing to support our teams.
There are pretty VIP drinking shacks lined up in Furnivall Gardens, a Pimms station, burger and hot dog corners and pink and blue beer tents. Gargantuan TV screens have been setup so that we can carry on watching, even after we lose sight of the flotilla. The pubs are bursting, but we manage to get our orders in just in time to run upstairs to our Living Room, caramel-coloured ales and Pinot in hand. We get comfortable, the fireplace is cracking and feet up, we can watch the race from our picture window.
The Cancer Research UK Boat Race, as it’s now called, kicks off at 4.11pm, with Cambridge in their traditional light blues and Oxford in their dark blues. The riverbanks are swelling, the oars are fanning, and a wave of cheering propels the lads to the finish line. 18 tempestuous minutes and 38 waterlogged seconds later, Cambridge take the prize!
Maurice and Sidney would be so proud!