Watch Oxbridge alumni paddle hard at the Bay

Watch Oxbridge alumni paddle hard at the Bay

A 186-YEAR-OLD rivalry originating from England will take place on local shores today.

Along a 1.5km stretch on the waters of Marina Bay, alumni from Oxford and Cambridge University will renew their rivalries in the local edition of the Boat Race, a set of rowing races held annually on the River Thames in London.

The popular event is watched by crowds of more than 200,000 on the Thames' banks, and has been contested by rowers from both institutions since 1829.

The 2015 Singapore edition is sponsored by BNY Mellon, and features four races - mixed crew, men's, women's, and against local rowing club Easter - starting from 3pm.

This will be the second time the Boat Race is held in Singapore. The first was held at Clarke Quay in 1997, which Oxford won.

Cambridge alumni Mark Nelligan, who had challenged his Oxford "foe" Ng Yeau Chong to organise the race, said he was surprised by the response.

Invites were sent out in late January, and some 30 alumni from both schools gamely signed on for the event, beginning weekly training sessions on Saturday afternoons at Pandan Reservoir in February.

Nelligan said there are plans to make the race an annual event, and added he believes that Singapore is the only country outside of England to hold the Boat Race.

Today's event in England will also be remembered for being the first edition to feature both the men's and women's races on the same day, and on the same course.

It is why Cambridge alumna Clare Wijeratne, who picked up rowing in her freshman year, insists on being involved in the Singapore edition, despite being seven months pregnant.

The 37-year-old, who will be the race umpire, said: "The women's boat race is always held on a different day, and that meant little to no press coverage. It's great that the women's race is getting all the attention now.

"When I was told in January of the race I was disappointed because I knew I wouldn't be able to row. So when Mark said I could be umpire, I said yes straight away."

Besides the action on water, spectators will be treated to a carnival under the Benjamin Sheares Bridge, where there will be finger food and live music.

The event's designated charity is the Children's Cancer Foundation. Spectators are encouraged to make a donation for a chance to predict the winning time of each race, and BNY Mellon will match 50 per cent of the total collection, capped at US$10,000 (S$13,600).

siangyee@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Apr 11, 2015.
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