Minor British Institutions: The Boat Race

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The Independent Online

The 156th Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race takes place today at 4.30pm. The main reason most people watch is to see one of the boats sink, as they have from time to time since the first contest was staged in 1829. Otherwise it is hard to see the point; the team from Oxford could easily have wound up at Cambridge, and vice-versa.

Then again, the same could be said of most football squads, so perhaps the Boat Race is just another example of the randomness of being a fan.

For those who have not enjoyed the privilege of an Oxbridge education, supporting one team over the other basically comes down to which shade of blue you prefer.

Still, some 25,000 spectators crowd the banks of the Thames each year and, after a five-year gap, the BBC will again be broadcasting it live.

Cambridge lead the series by 79-75; Oxford won last year. Also immortalised in cockney rhyming slang and by one-hit wonders The Monks. All together now: "Nice legs, shame about the boat race".