The Women's Boat Race
The Women's Boat Race
Since 1857, the universities of Oxford and Cambridge have battled it out over 4.2 miles of the River Thames annually to win the prestigious Boat Race. Over a quarter of a million people line the banks of the river to watch and cheer on the rowers, with a further 15 million tuning in from the comfort of their own homes. This year’s race, on Saturday 11th April 2015, will be the first time that the women’s race will run on the same day, over the same course, and be televised.
The first women’s Boat Race was held in 1927 and the crews were not allowed to line up side by side as it was thought to be unladylike to race. The crews took it in turns to row and their style was judged by umpires. Subsequent years were met with protests to the women’s race and a lack of support. Christine Wilson, the Oxford women’s coach, hopes to dispel prejudice with this race, stating that “there’s been a long notion that women aren’t tough and that they can’t cope with things that are long and require and enormous amount of physical strength and endurance.”
Fast-becoming one of the nation’s favourite sports presenters, Clare Balding has chosen to host this historic event, turning down the chance to present the Grand National, arguably the biggest event in the horse racing calendar, the sport which Balding has built her career and life around. Balding says that she made the decision as a way of affirming that she supports women’s sport and the platform that the media is giving it.
Balding sees her chance to present the Race as a political one, a chance to really highlight women’s sporting talent. This is especially important as only 0.4% of all commercial sponsorship goes to women’s sport and only 7% of women’s sport gets media coverage. This has all been made possible by Helena Morrissey, the CEO of the women’s Boat Race’s main sponsor Newton Investment Management, who has pushed the dream of a women’s race into becoming reality. Morrissey has stated that the commercial sector should invest in women’s sport as part of a business plans which predicts high returns and greater impact.
The battle for gender equality in sport plays into the wider discourse of feminism. Balding claims that sport provides women with physical freedom, a way of expressing the self through hard work, sweat and determination. The women’s Boat Race will be a cause for celebration and added excitement around an event which gathers so much pride and interest. Whatever the outcome, whether Oxford or Cambridge reigns victorious, this is a euphoric moment for women’s sport and will undoubtedly be a crowd pleaser.
Wilson said that this race has been brought about by a culture of strong, stubborn and passionate women who have fought for nearly a century to have the same platform as their male counterparts. However little or much you know about rowing, this alone is a reason to watch. History in the making.
The women’s Boat Race is on Saturday 11th April, 4.50pm BST on BBC1.
Sources: theguardian.com | bbc.co.uk
Madeleine is a final year student at the University of Exeter studying BA English with proficiency in French who has developed her writing and editing through her involvement with Her Campus Exeter. In her free time, Madeleine loves discovering new music in preparation for the UK festival season and searching for opportunities which can broaden her horizons, most recently this was volunteering as a teacher in Beijing, China, where she was immersed in Chinese culture and tradition. There are few things in this world that bring Madeleine more joy than glitter, velvet and sequins and her ideal dinner party guests would be Queen Elizabeth I, George Orwell and Taylor Swift. Currently, with graduation looming, Madeleine is exploring the idea of taking time out to travel the world on a shoe string before embarking upon a career in international humanitarian aid.