For the rowers keep on rowing
And they're certainly not showing
Any signs that they are slowing.'
From 'The Rowing Song' by Roald Dahl, (1916-1990)
It’s the 157th Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race today - sixteen big chaps giving it their absolute all. I shall be watching.
The race began in 1829 after Charles Merivale of Cambridge challenged his old school friend Charles Wordsworth of Oxford to an ‘eight’s race'. The first race was held at Henley on Thames but not long afterwards moved downriver to the Thames tideway. The course is now over the four or so miles between Putney and Mortlake. About a quarter of a million people turn out to watch the race from the riverside – and the pubs along its length; and some 20 million more watch it on the television.
The University Boat Race is not the oldest rowing race on the Thames. That honour goes to the Doggett's Coat and Badge race, the oldest rowing race in the world. Six apprentice Thames Watermen compete in Doggett's race, which has been rowed between London Bridge and Chelsea every year since 1715. The prize is a traditional Watermen's red coat with a silver badge displaying the horse of the House of Hanover and the word 'Liberty', in honour of the accession of George I to the throne. Aren't these guys totally fabulous?
The Oxford and Cambridge Boat race is a result of a challenge to the winners sent by the losers of the previous race and the current tally of wins stands at Cambridge 79 and Oxford 74, with one dead heat in 1877. There was nearly another dead heat in 2003 when Cambridge won by a margin of only 12 inches.
The course winds round in a big loop so it’s a race of tactics as well as manpower, the speed of the tide, the wind and the state of the river all have to been taken into account. The teams try and find the line of the fastest stream, so the toss of the coin which decides which team takes the Middlesex side and which the Surrey side can be decisive.
I find it really exciting and it's one of those British national events that tie us into our joint past. My Dad could remember the 1949 race when the BBC radio commentator reported: ‘I can't see who's in the lead but it's either Oxford or Cambridge’ and I can remember 1978 when in very rough weather the Cambridge boat sank.
So Oxford sausages or Cambridge tarts? I’m very partisan about the Boat Race and always support Oxford, so I’ve made Oxford sausages. These have two distinctive features; no skins and a unique ‘C’ shape. They would be a great breakfast for a beefy rower – unfortunately there wasn’t one on hand this morning.
8oz minced pork and 8oz minced veal or lamb
4oz shredded suet (I used vegetable suet - think of your arteries)
4oz fresh breadcrumbs
Grated rind of 1 lemon
½ tsp grated nutmeg , 1 tsp fresh chopped sage or marjoram, 1tsp fresh thyme
salt and black pepper
Tbsp flour for coating and oil for frying
Fry or grill for about 8 minutes or until thoroughly cooked through.
Just a quick comment about the recipe, which was taken from an old WI collection. The nutmeg/lemon/ marjoram combo was delicious, but I think I'd make them like a meat ball and limit breadcrumbs and suet to a bare minimum - they were a bit stodgy - and difficult to photograph elegantly..
Enjoy the race.
‘Jolly boating weather,
And a hay harvest breeze,
Blade on the feather,
Shade off the trees,
Swing swing together,
With your bodies between your knees.’
From: The Eton Boating Song. Words by William J. Cory (1823–1892)