With a month to go, I thought I'd dig out my take on the 2014 event.......
Oxford V Cambridge – The event that epitomises modern London and rubs it in your boat race
Forget the London Marathon or Wimbledon. The sporting event that really showcases what our great nation’s modern capital is all about is the Oxford V Cambridge Boat Race. And not because this ancient rivalry between two of the country’s most prestigious seats of learning is steeped in history and symbolises our nation’s former dominance of all things boat related, in a quaint and quintessentially English manner.
I’m not sure why I watched it. Perhaps it was in the vain hope another nutter would try their luck at stopping it mid-stroke again this year, perhaps by doing a bomb off Hammersmith bridge or heavily petting in the shallow end. It certainly wasn’t because I’m even remotely interested in rowing. Surely very few people are. As I flicked on the telly, the first thing I saw was the omnipresent Claire Balding, fresh from Aintree, interviewing a cloned, red-chino’d Sloaney twat with sunglasses on his head and a glass of something bubbly in his hand. The BBC tried to balance it out with a token northerner chatting inane shit with American tourists, but when I heard Matthew Pinsent pipe-up too, we all knew who the target audience was if we didn’t before. The Sky Sports-style profiling of each team was a veritable who’s-who of floppy-haired, white, privately educated chaps (the Cambridge Cox didn’t look old enough to support his own head, let alone study for a BSc (Hons) Geography and command a vessel!).
The sponsors complemented the toff-fest emphatically. I had to look up who or what BNY Mellon were or was (they do investment banky stuff). Newton (part of the BNY Mellon group), Bollinger, Hackett, Jean Richard (make overpriced Swiss watches apparently) and Hunter, gave you further confirmation that you weren’t their intended demographic. Hunter got particularly great coverage, when post-race, the heaving, dripping, sweaty boys donned their wellies in their rowing hot-pants, looking like the village people (minus the trades and black men).
Once proceedings were underway, it was five minutes before something really interesting happened, but it was well worth the wait. The two teams had been edging closer together and it was looking like a collision was on the cards. I wasn’t disappointed and guffawed in to my coffee when one of the Cambridge crew clipped oars with his Oxford counterpart and flopped into the Thames like a willy in a shallow bath.
After that, the race was, to all intents and purposes, over as Oxford pulled away and gained an unassailable lead. This then left the viewer with ten minutes of watching lovely riverside properties fly by, with the knowledge that their value was probably inflating by several percent with every stroke of the oars.
The Cambridge Cox tried to rally his chums with some motivational shouting, but it was too little too late, or perhaps it was because he sounded like Ed Milliband after one too many babycinos. They finished ten lengths behind a slightly subdued Oxford, who knew their rivals would contest the earlier collision. One of the Cambridge crew looked like he was about to cry as he vented his frustration in a McEnroe “You cannot be serious!” style at the ref’s inevitable decision not to uphold the challenge. They must have known really that they were clutching at oars.
After chucking the poor little coxes in the river, akin to flushing their heads down the loo (one presumes they’re quite used to such treatment in their boarding houses), there was slightly muted celebration and Bollinger spraying by Oxford before everyone fucked off back to Mayfair for Treasure Chests at Mahiki.
The whole thing was a brief peep in to a world so foreign to most human beings, it might as well have taken place on Mars (if there were rivers on it). It reflects perfectly, a London that’s increasingly becoming a playground for the insanely wealthy. Shove that in your boat race peasant!