Boat Race 2021: when is the Oxford vs Cambridge boat race - and how to watch it

2021 will mark the 166th anniversary of the men’s Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge University

Oxford and Cambridge will battle it out on the water again this year as the annual boat race between the two universities makes its return for 2021.

The race was forced to be cancelled last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but is back to mark its 166th anniversary of the men’s race, and the 75th women’s race.

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Instead of taking place on the River Thames between Putney and Mortlake, this year’s boat race will instead be held in Cambridgeshire.

This year’s boat race will be held in Cambridgeshire (Photo: Getty Images)

The change comes due to strict social distancing requirements and repair work to Hammersmith Bridge, forcing event organisers to temporarily relocate the event for 2021.

The men's race has previously been run once before at Ely, in 1944, when the war made it impossible to stage in London.

More than 250,000 people normally line the Thames to watch the action unfold, but no spectators will be allowed near the banks of the straight stretch of the Great Ouse.

However, as always, the event will still be televised so viewers can catch the excitement from the comfort of their home.

Here’s everything you need to know about how and when to watch.

When will the race take place?

The Boat Race 2021 will take place on Easter Sunday (4 April).

What time can I watch it?

The race will air live on BBC One from 3pm until 5.30pm on Sunday 4 April.

The women’s race is due to begin at 3.50pm, followed by the men’s race an hour later at 4.50pm.

Presentations for the women’s race will follow at 5.15pm, with the men’s taking place shortly after at 5.20pm.

Where does the race start and finish?

This year’s rowing race will start at the Queen Adelaide Bridge near Ely and finish just short of Sandhill Bridge in Littleport.

The race covers just over three miles (4.89km), which is slightly shorter than the usual Thames route extending around 4.2 miles (6.8km).

Will there be spectators?

Unlike previous years, this weekend’s race will be a closed event due to coronavirus, meaning spectators will not be allowed to line the route.

Footbaths, banks and the start and finish bridges will all be closed and people are being urged not to travel from their local area to spectate.

Viewers can instead catch all of the action live via the television coverage on BBC One.

What is the Boat Race?

The Boat Race originally started as a challenge between friends, but is now an internationally-renowned event between the Oxford and Cambridge universities.

Cambridge fellow Charles Merivale and his Harrow School and Oxford friend Charles Wordsworth decided to set up a competition in 1829.

The invitation read: "The University of Cambridge hereby challenge the University of Oxford to row a match at or near London, each in an eight-oared boat during the ensuing Easter vacation."

Women were not initially allowed to take part, but the first event eventually took place in 1927.

The event is now made up of four races, including two men’s events and two women's.

The Blue Boat races are the men’s and women’s races between the top crews, or "first boats", from Oxford and Cambridge.

The two other races take place between the "reserve crews", or "second boats".

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