University rowing in the United Kingdom began when it was introduced to Oxford in the late 18th century. The first known race at a university took place at Oxford in 1815 between Brasenose and Jesus and the first inter-university boat race, between Oxford and Cambridge, was rowed on 10 June 1829.
Today, many universities have a rowing club and at some collegiate universities, Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, and London, each college has its own club as well as a main university club. In contrast to the Oxford/Cambridge/Durham colleges, London colleges are members of British Universities and Colleges Sport in their own right, and thus compete in inter-university competitions. In Scotland, the rowing clubs of Glasgow University and Edinburgh University initiated an annual race in 1877, making this competition the second oldest in the United Kingdom. Competitive university rowing in Northern Ireland began in the 1930s with the formation of Queen's University Belfast Boat Club in 1931, whose first inter-varsity races were a triangular tournament against Glasgow University and University College Dublin in 1934–35 and who entered the Wylie Cup (which had been running between Irish universities since 1922) from 1937 to 1938. The Welsh Boat Race began in 2006.
A 2016 article identified six university clubs which "dominate rowing among higher education institutions": Oxford Brookes, Imperial College, London, Newcastle, Durham and Reading. With the exception of Reading, these are all designated by British Rowing as High Performance Programmes, a scheme that also involves Edinburgh as well as three non-university clubs.
Most universities compete in the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) Championships with a number of events over the year. For non-indoor events, boats are separated into Championship (where "BUCS points" are available), Intermediate and Beginner (for students in their first year of the sport).
On 16 June 2008, UCS (who represented the professional staff working in the sector) and BUSA (the body for competitive sport in the sector) merged to form "BUCS" – British Universities and Colleges Sport. Events from 2008/09 onwards therefore come under the BUCS banner, rather than BUSA, e.g. BUCS Regatta rather than BUSA regatta.
BUCS events contribute "BUCS Points" (for Championship boats) towards the (multi-sport) BUCS championship. Since 2011–12, a breakdown of points by sport has also been available. The highest ranked universities in rowing since then have been:
|2018–19||Edinburgh (312)||Newcastle (284)||Queen's Belfast (121)|
|2017–18||Edinburgh (315)||Newcastle (305)||London (250)|
|2016–17||London (282)||Edinburgh (267)||Oxford Brookes (197)|
|2015–16||Newcastle (280)||Edinburgh (218)||Reading (185)|
|2014–15||Durham (269)||Edinburgh (249)||Newcastle (245)|
|2013–14||Imperial (256)||London (157)||Durham (155)|
|2012–13||Imperial (400)||Durham (359)||Newcastle (291)|
|2011–12||Durham (356)||Newcastle (309)||Reading (301)|
The Small Boats Head is held in October. The event was introduced in 2006 and first held on the Trent in Nottingham, small boats having previously competed in the BUSA Championship Head. The 2007 event, held in December, saw 4s included in the Small Boats Head and Durham compete for the first time, dominating the medal table. In 2008 the event was again held in October but moved to the Witham in Boston, Lincolnshire, where it now runs in conjunction with the GB Rowing Team 1st Senior/U23 Assessment. The 2012 head saw Durham's dominance finally broken as, with only the double sculls racing, Imperial topped the medal table with a single gold, a silver and a bronze. Imperial won again the following year, with only the single sculls racing.
Note that as the Small Boats Head is an autumn event, the 4s and 8s Head and Regatta from the same BUCS season are held on the following year, e.g. the 2015 Small Boats Head is part of the 2015–16 BUCS season along with the 2016 4s and 8s Head and the 2016 Regatta.
|Year||Top of the Medal Table||Number of medals|
|2018||Newcastle University Boat Club||9 (6 gold, 2 silver, 1 bronze)|
|2017||Edinburgh University Boat Club||7 (5 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze)|
|2016||Cambridge University Boat Club||6 (3 gold, 2 silver, 1 bronze)|
|2015||Reading University Boat Club||3 (2 gold, 1 bronze)|
|2014||Reading University Boat Club||3 (2 gold, 1 silver)|
|2013||Imperial College Boat Club||3 (2 gold, 1 bronze)|
|2012||Imperial College Boat Club||3 (1 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze)|
|2011||Durham University Boat Club||4 (2 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze)|
|2010||Durham University Boat Club||6 (4 gold, 2 bronze)|
|2009||Durham University Boat Club||10 (3 gold, 2 silver, 5 bronze)|
|2008||Durham University Boat Club||9 (5 gold, 2 silver, 2 bronze)|
|2007||Durham University Boat Club||12 (8 gold, 3 silver, 1 bronze)|
BUCS Rowing and British Rowing have managed an annual autumn indoor rowing series at a number of universities and other centres across the UK since 2010, when it started with 11 centres and ran from late November to mid December. In 2016, thirteen centres hosted events from late October to the end of November.
This is a 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) head race which has been run in February or March since 2003 (originally as the BUSA Championship Head). The event grew rapidly, becoming the largest university heads race in the world by 2007, despite the small boats being split into a separate head (see above) after the 2006 event. It was held on the River Trent in Nottingham until 2009, when the decision was made to move the event to the River Nene in Peterborough, and to split the competition into 2 separate days, with Beginners racing over a shorter 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) course on one day, and Seniors racing on the longer course on the other. However, due to inclement weather, the event was cancelled. The event was again held in Peterborough in 2010, 2011 and 2012, and was due to be held there in 2013. However, due to flooding, the event was moved to Boston that year, with Newcastle topping the medal table.
The 2014 event was cancelled due to bad weather, It was held in Boston again in 2015, with racing on Saturday only for the intermediate and championship crews. Newcastle topped the medal table and won the men's Victor Ludorum while Durham, who were second in the medal table, took the women's Victor Ludorum and the overall Victor Ludorum.
In 2015, BUCS sought a new host for a three-year period (2016–2018). The event subsequently moved to the Tyne, hosted by Tyne United Rowing Club, Tyne Amateur Rowing Club and Newcastle University Boat Club in 2016. Newcastle won both the overall and men's Victor Ludorum, with Edinburgh winning the women's Victor Ludorm. The first day of the 2017 event, also on the Tyne, had to be cancelled due to poor weather, but the second day (for senior crews) went ahead, with London topping the medal table and taking the Victor Ludorum. The 2018 event saw separate men's and women's Victor Ludorum awards, with London taking the women's prize and Newcastle taking the men's. From 2019, the event was to be held for three years on the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal, hosted by the University of Bristol, Hartpury University Centre and Gloucester Rowing Club. Newcastle took the Men's and Overall Victor Ludorum in 2019, with Edinburgh taking the Women's. However, it reverted to the Tyne in 2020 after only one year. The 2020 event was shortened due to bad weather, with only the intermediate and championship races taking place. Newcastle University topped the medal table with ten medals, four gold, as well as winning the men's, women's and overall Victor Ludorum.
|Year||Top of Medal Table||Number of Medals||Victor Ludorum|
|2020||Newcastle University Boat Club||10 (4 gold)||Overall: Newcastle University Boat Club|
Women: Newcastle University Boat Club
Men: Newcastle University Boat Club
|2019||Overall: Newcastle University Boat Club|
Women: Edinburgh University Boat Club
Men: Newcastle University Boat Club
|2018||Women: Newcastle University Boat Club|
Men: University of London Boat Club
|2017||University of London Boat Club||12 (4 gold, 5 silver, 3 bronze)||University of London Boat Club|
|2016||Newcastle University Boat Club||16 (6 gold, 5 silver, 5 bronze)||Newcastle University Boat Club|
|2015||Newcastle University Boat Club||12 (6 gold, 3 silver, 3 bronze)||Durham University Boat Club|
|2014||No race held|
|2013||Newcastle University Boat Club||10 (5 gold, 4 silver, 1 bronze)|
|2012||Durham University Boat Club||15 (5 gold, 4 silver, 6 bronze)|
|2011||Durham University Boat Club||13 (7 gold, 4 silver, 2 bronze)|
|2010||Durham University Boat Club||10 (4 gold, 4 silver, 2 bronze)|
|2009||No race held|
|2008||Durham University Boat Club||14 (10 gold, 2 silver, 2 bronze)|
|2007||Oxford Brookes University Boat Club||5 (4 gold, 1 silver)|
|2006||Imperial College Boat Club|
A 2 km regatta held (usually at Holme Pierrepont) over the May Day weekend. Points for the Victor Ludorum are awarded for finishing places in the finals (more points for champ events and bigger boats).
The regatta was first run (as the BUSA regatta) in 1994, replacing the UAU 'Regatta' that had been a two-hour slot for University races in the Nottingham City Regatta. The first Regatta attracted 105 crews; by 2000 this had grown to 354. The 2001 Regatta was the first to be held over two days, and attracted over 500 crews. In 2006 the Regatta grew to three days with almost 1000 crews taking part.
In its early years the Regatta was dominated by Nottingham, but in 2004 it was won for the first time by Durham. In 2005 Durham were 1st again, followed by Reading University in 2nd place and University of London behind them in 3rd place. Durham's dominance continued until 2014, when London took the trophy, with Durham 2nd and Imperial College 3rd.
2014 also saw the introduction of separate Victor Ludorum trophies for men's and women's teams in addition to the overall trophy: Durham took the women's prize and Imperial the men's. 2015 saw Durham retain the women's title and Newcastle the men's, with Durham taking the overall title. Newcastle's men retained their trophy in 2016 and Newcastle University won the overall trophy for the first time. The University of London won the 2016 women's trophy on gold medal count, having finished equal on points with Exeter.
In 2008 the BUSA regatta was held at Strathclyde Country Park, as NWSC was not available that weekend. Two weeks earlier, a BUSA Sprint Regatta was held at Cotswold Water Park, though the regatta had to be held as a time trial because the weather had prevented the course and stakeboats being laid.
|Year||Victor Ludorum||Top of Medal Table||Number of Medals|
|2021||Oxford Brookes University Boat Club|
|2019||Newcastle University Boat Club|
|2018||Newcastle University Boat Club|
|2017||Oxford Brookes University Boat Club||Oxford Brookes University Boat Club||29 (10 Gold, 10 Silver, 9 Bronze)|
|2016||Newcastle University Boat Club||Newcastle University Boat Club||19 (8 Gold, 2 Silver, 9 Bronze)|
|2015||Durham University Boat Club||Durham University Boat Club||19 (7 Gold, 8 Silver, 4 Bronze)|
|2014||University of London Boat Club||University of London Boat Club||19 (10 Gold, 6 Silver, 3 Bronze)|
|2013||Durham University Boat Club||Durham University Boat Club||22 (12 Gold, 6 Silver)|
|2012||Durham University Boat Club||Loughborough Students Rowing||10 (7 Gold, 3 Silver)|
|2011||Durham University Boat Club||Reading University Boat Club||16 (9 Gold, 1 silver, 6 bronze)|
|2010||Durham University Boat Club||Imperial College Boat Club||7 Gold|
|2009||Durham University Boat Club||Durham University Boat Club||27 (13 Gold)|
|2008||Durham University Boat Club|
|2007||Durham University Boat Club|
|2006||Durham University Boat Club|
|2005||Durham University Boat Club|
|2004||Durham University Boat Club|
|2003||Nottingham University Boat Club|
|2002||Nottingham University Boat Club|
|2001||Nottingham University Boat Club|
|2000||Nottingham University Boat Club|
|1999||Oxford Brookes University Boat Club|
|1997||Nottingham University Boat Club|
|1996||Nottingham University Boat Club|
|1995||Nottingham University Boat Club|
|1994||Nottingham University Boat Club|
The Head of the River Race for men's eights, rowed on the Championship Course on the Tideway, awarded the Ortner Shield (named after Reading University coach Frank Ortner) to the fastest University Athletics Union (UAU) crew (later BUSA crew) from 1961 to 2005. The first winners were Reading, but the shield was dominated by Durham from the mid 1960s to the mid 1980s, who also won the final shield in 2005.
In 2006 the "University Prize" replaced the Ortner Shield. This was restricted to university and college crews of Senior 2 (now Intermediate 1) status or lower, with no higher-status entries from that institute, affiliated to British Rowing, Scottish Rowing or Welsh Rowing. This was later renamed the Halladay Trophy, after Durham coach Eric Halladay, and joined by the Bernard Churcher Trophy, an unrestricted prize for universities from anywhere in the world – boats may only be entered for one of these trophies, even if eligible for both.
|Year||Bernard Churcher Trophy||Halladay Trophy|
|2009||Oxford Brookes||First and Third Trinity, Cambridge|
|Durham||20||1963, 1966–1976, 1978–1984, 2005|
|Imperial College||9||1987–1991, 1993, 1997, 1998, 2000|
|Oxford Brookes||7||1994–1996, 1999, 2001–2003|
|Reading||3||1961, 1985, 1986|
|Nottingham||3||1962, 1964, 1965|
|University College and Hospital (UCL)||1||1977|
The Women's Eights Head of the River Race is, like the men's counterpart, raced on the Championship Course on the Tideway. University crews from anywhere in the world compete for the University Pennant; from 1999 to 2005 there was also a separate prize for the top BUSA-affiliated crew.
|2009||Osiris (Oxford Women)|
|2005||Univ.: Cambridge Women|
|2004||Osiris (Univ. & BUSA)|
|2003||Osiris (Univ. & BUSA)|
|2001||Cambridge Women (Univ. & BUSA)|
|2000||Oxford Women (Univ. & BUSA)|
|1999||Cambridge Women (Univ. & BUSA)|
A number of university boat clubs have organised annual races between themselves. These include:
Some universities include rowing in multi-sport inter-university competitions:
Collegiate universities also hold inter-collegiate competitions. The include:
Of the precise date when boating became a common amusement in the University we have no record, but we find T. F. Dibden, who came up in 1793, and took his degree in 1801...
...a history of Oxford rowing from its earliest days, even before the actual racing began—his first extracts relate to the year 1793...
Everyone knows that the first race took place at Henley in 1829, but no one has yet been to decide how it was that the idea of a between the two Universities arose.
Over 1,300 athletes in 365 crews contested the BUSA BUR Championship Head, now the largest University Head race in the world in only its fourth year
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the winning handful of points needed to unseat Nottingham University, the champions for the past seven years
2004 … DUBC won the BUSA Regatta winning the Eric Halladay Memorial trophy, the first time that Nottingham had ever lost the title.