Famous Boat Race Competitors Through History

The team at our charming hotel in Oxford love the buzz the Boat Race brings to Oxford each year, here are the most memorable individuals to have competed in the race throughout history.

They might not have been well known at the time of competing, but many boat race competitors have gone on to find fame later in life…


Tim Foster MBE

Tim Foster MBE is an Olympic Rowing Gold Medalist and former Head Coach of the Swiss National Rowing Team. Part of the Oxford crew in 1997, Foster went on to win gold in the fours at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. He recently said “I’ve rowed in one Boat Race – for Oxford in 1997 – and I lost. I think the event does a fantastic job for rowing. People with no connection to Oxford or Cambridge or rowing come down to the river to watch, or put a bet on, or sit and watch it on TV.” During his rowing career Tim won a total of 9 World Championship and 2 Olympic medals – only twice in 14 years failing to win a medal.

Sir Matthew Pinsent

Sir Pinsent rowed for Oxford in 1990, 1991 and 1993, winning the Boat Race twice and then going on to win three Olympic golds. In one of the classic sporting moments of all time, Pinsent led the Great Britain coxless four to victory at the Athens Olympic Games in 2004. Just eight one hundredths of a second ahead of the Canadian Champions, the win booked Matt’s place in Olympic history forever. He said “It’s absolutely tremendous to be involved in the Boat Race – I’ve rowed in three and my best memory is probably winning in 1991, both because it’s the last one I won and because I got on so well with the other guys in the boat. The race has huge tradition, it is all-or-nothing out there for the crews and the elements play such a large part.”

Sir Steve Redgrave

Redgrave won his first Olympic medal at the 1996 Olympics. Following his bronze Olympic medal, he continued his university studies at Oxford, competing in the 1997 Boat Race.  He said “I think the Boat Race is extremely important. It’s one of the oldest traditional races we have. It’s iconic within the sport and has tremendous support – everyone turns on their TV to watch. It’s a very special, magical race over the Championship Course.” Having set out to win three Olympic Gold Medals at the beginning of his career, Steve went on to win an incredible five Golds in five successive Olympic Games from 1984 to 2000.

Lord Snowdon

Lord Snowdon coxed the Cambridge crew to victory in 1950, left Cambridge University and subsequently became a celebrated photographer for Vogue and Vanity Fair and later married Princess Margaret. Of the Boat Race Lord Snowdon said “I have many happy memories. In my day as a cox, in order to keep our weight down we used to shovel malt in a brewery in a steamy atmosphere, wearing several sweaters. You could lose a stone in a hour, though the only problem was that you usually put it straight back on when re-hydrated. The boats were different then – we had to use our own voices as there were no microphones or megaphones and it was all to do with timing to get the crew moving and accelerating together. Thankfully we won the 1950 Boat Race, because for a cox there is nothing worse than losing, as you will inevitably be blamed.’

Hugh Laurie OBE

Hugh Laurie rowed for the 1980 Cambridge crew that narrowly lost by just five feet at the Boat Race. Hugh is famous as a comic, actor, musician and playwright, known in particular for Blackadder, Fry and Laurie and Jeeves and Wooster.  By rowing in the Race, Laurie was following the tradition of his father, former Light Blue president and Olympic gold medallist, Ran Laurie, who had won the Boat Race in 1934, 1935 and 1936.

So that’s just a small taste of the incredible Boat Race competitors over the years. Who knows who will be competing in this year’s race?

Looking for somewhere to stay during the Race this year? Look no further than our charming three star Oxford hotel.

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