Oxford Cambridge boat race: Where to watch in London, what time it starts - and the best pubs along the River Thames

Women race along the Thames in 2016
Which Blues are you?

It's that time of year when Oxford and Cambridge go head to head on the waters of the Thames - yep, it's boat race time.

And the good news is that it is still expected to go ahead despite the discovery of a suspected Second World War bomb near the starting line on the Thames.

The 163rd men's race (and 72nd women's race) will pit the two rival universities against each other on a four-mile course between Putney and Chiswick Bridges. Heading there to cheer the teams on? Here's what you need to know.


Event coverage kicks off at 4pm on Sunday 2 April on the BBC. The first toss for the women's boat race is at 2.45pm, with the first race at 3.47pm, while the final race - the main event - takes place at 5.35pm.

It's also worth pointing out that the Royal Barge Gloriana will leave Putney at 3pm, making its way to the finish line.

The course

The Championship Course stretches for four miles between Putney and Mortlake, taking in Hammersmith and Barnes bridges.

It's been used for almost every race since 1845, apart from in 1846, 1856 and 1863, when the direction was reversed.

Where to watch it

If you want more than just a flash of the boats as they pass, Putney Bridge is the ideal spot - although arrive early if you're planning on being able to see anything.

Putney Embankment will also be busy - if you'd rather enjoy the event in style, you could pay to go into one of the rowing clubs lining the river along the embankment.

Further west is Hammersmith Bridge, another popular spot for spectators, while the towpath along the North Bank of the river will also be busy.

Meanwhile, Chiswick Pier will have views of the crews as they "power upstream from Chiswick Eyot past the Pier and through to the final bend". It'll be open from 2pm, serving food and drink all afternoon.

Finally, Dukes Meadow - a park and recreation ground between Chiswick and Barnes bridges on the North Bank - will provide good views of the final stage of the race.

The best pubs

(Source: Getty)

Fancy a boat race pub crawl?

Start at the Star and Garter (4, Lower Richmond Rd, SW15), on the south bank, where you can watch the coin toss and (eventually) the start. It doesn't have a terrace - but if you're feeling chilly, you can always watch the action on the screens inside. If you'd rather sit outside, head to the Duke's Head (8, Lower Richmond Road, SW15), which will have "live music and good spirit" throughout the afternoon.

Cross the bridge and stroll to The Crabtree (Rainville Road, W6), after which the Crabtree Reach section of the course is named, which boasts the lengthiest spectators' view of the race. It will host 10 screens, "an abundant supply" of food pop-ups, banks The Tom Lukas and the Hanging Baskets, and DJ Rees Parker.

Next, choose from a quartet of much-loved Fulham haunts: The Blue Anchor (13, Lower Mall, W6), The Dove (19, Upper Mall, W6), The Rutland Arms (15, Lower Mall, W6) and The Old Ship (25, Upper Mall, W6). All four will be packed - The Dove has a surprisingly cosy balcony - so if you're planning on watching from any of them, arrive early.

At the beginning of the final bend, legendary jazz venue The Bull's Head (373 Lonsdale Road, SW13) may be set back from the river, but it'll be supplying the pints for spectators as well as screening the race inside.

Finally, head to The Old Ship (10, Thames Bank W6), where you can watch the crews cross the finish line, and celebrate making it to the end with a Pimms.

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