Boats and Goats prepare for Easter Sunday showdown

Easter eggs will be on hold until the completion of the 4.30pm Boat and Goat Races

18-3-2013 — / — Last year, months of dedication on and off the water were ruined by a rogue swimmer trying to make a point; this year, the crews from Oxford and Cambridge will hope their oars alone can do the talking in the annual Boat Race between the nation’s leading universities on the River Thames. With security no doubt ramped up for the Easter Sunday showdown, the biggest challenge for the coxes could well be steering their crews away from the temptation of chocolate eggs until after the race. Meanwhile, across town in Spitalfields City Farm two billies will lock horns in the annual Oxford vs Cambridge Goat Race.

There was drama aplenty in the 2012 Boat Race, when Australian anti-elitism campaigner Trenton Oldfield was almost decapitated by an oar belonging to the Oxford crew. He was later jailed for six months for causing a public nuisance. Following a re-start, the Light Blues of Cambridge won the race – but to muted celebrations after the Dark Blues’ bow man collapsed from exhaustion. Now sponsored by BNY Mellon, one of London’s oldest sporting events returns for a 159th outing in 2013 as England’s two elite universities take to the water in a gruelling four-mile race from Putney to Mortlake in southwest London. Travellers arriving from outside London to watch the Boat Race as part of their Easter long weekend can conveniently book their accommodation on, where there’s a wide range of cheap London hotels.

Cambridge’s superior record of wins (81 to Oxford’s 76) is replicated in the not-quite-as-prestigious annual Goat Race, which returns for a fifth year with Oxford still yet to notch a win. Last year, Bramble the Golden Guernsey made it four in a row for Cambridge in front of 1,700 fans at the Spitalfields City Farm in East London – although their rivals took meagre consolation in winning the inaugural spin-off Stoat Race. This year’s event once again starts at exactly the same time as the Boat Race – and amid rumours that Barney, the turbo-charged pygmy goat who started Cambridge’s four-year winning streak, is set to come out of retirement for a final swansong, excitement levels could hardly be higher.

Tickets for the Goat Race cost £5 for adults and £1 for, ahem, kids – with the profits all going to the Spitalfields City Farm. The Boat Race remains one of the world’s largest free events, with around 250,000 lining the banks of the Thames each year to cheer on the rowers. Popular spots to watch the world-famous race include Bishops Park (near the start at Putney Bridge), Craven Cottage (the home ground of Fulham FC is usually ticketed), the Crabtree Tavern in Fulham, Hammersmith Bridge, the river banks at Barnes and the Stag Brewery near the finish at Chiswick Bridge.

In a bid to discourage potential saboteurs of their own, the organisers of the Goat Race have been quick to stress that no goats will be harmed in their annual race. Both events are featured on’s extensive guide to London 2013, which can be downloaded on PDF or iPad for free. Boats or goats, tugging or bleating, men or kids – take your pick on Easter Sunday.


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