The charitable side of... The Boat Race

Nathalie Thomas

Charity is usually in short supply at Oxbridge sporting encounters, but the Boat Race aims to give something back to the Thames.

When an estimated 1,200 hours of training goes into just one 20-minute race, it's hardly surprising that there's no love lost between Oxford and Cambridge on Boat Race day.

Oarsmen from both crews will do whatever it takes - clash rowing blades, pass out and even risk sinking - to beat their rivals when they compete on the River Thames on 2 April.

The 'dark blues', aka Oxford, will be taking no prisoners as they attempt to close Cambridge's 78-72 leading margin since the race began in 1829.

After losing by two boat lengths, or six seconds, last year, the 'light blues' aren't likely to be showing much goodwill towards their opponents either as they thrash it out on the course between Putney Bridge and Mortlake.

At least both crews show a slightly more charitable side when it comes to the environment, however. Despite coming from universities where students are often accused of having plums in their mouths, these boys have proved they aren't afraid of getting their hands dirty. Earlier this year, they collected litter along the banks of the Thames in support of the Boat Race's official charity, Thames 21.

"With such close ties to this historic stretch of water, we have a strong desire to support any charity that endeavours to create a clean, safe and sustainable Thames waterside environment," said Tom Edwards, president of Cambridge University Boat Club.

Thames 21 is hoping supporters of the Boat Race will prove equally generous when its volunteers ask them to dig deep and toss some coins their way on Sunday. The charity is planning its first street fundraising initiative to coincide with the event.

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