Varsity Match

Early History

Photo of mixed Varsity trophy - a silver cup
Yule Oldham Mixed (Varsity) Trophy
A complete set of Varsity Match results to date is tabled below. An 1898 challenge by Oxford was rejected by Cambridge because: “the Club (CUCrC) has no suitable boats to sail in such a match and, from its lists, it seems that the OUYC is not entirely a University Club”. The first Match was sailed in 1912, after Cambridge sentiment changed in 1910, and took the form of three match races – with a different helm in each of the three races and one of the other two helms crewing – but the result is included in this ‘main’ sequence for convenience. The following year and thereafter, true team racing took place.

The series was interrupted by the First World War from 1915 to 1919, and the 1940 Match planned for Oulton Broad was cancelled due to the Second World War. A clip of the 1928 Match at Weymouth is the first item on the Video History page of this website. The Yule Oldham Cup for the Mixed Varsity Match dates from 1928, the previous (Spender) cup having been lost. The early matches, until the mid-1930’s, were sometimes two boats a side and often in dinghies. Since that time, apart from World War II when two or three dinghies a side were used on the Thames at Shiplake (Henley) and Ranelagh (Putney), the matches have been three boats a side at a coastal location – and in keel boats consistently since the 1950’s. Nine-man teams started in 1978.

Blues Status

Half Blues were first awarded to the teams in 1937 (Cambridge) and 1949 (Oxford), though half blue sweaters did not make their appearance until 1947. Full Blues were awarded, subject to good BUSA performance, from 1967 (Oxford – 2), 1974 (Oxford – up to 6), 1977 (Cambridge – 2), 1978 (Cambridge – 3), and 1982 (Cambridge – up to 6). Half Blues were first awarded for the Ladies’ Match in 1958, with Full Blues being awarded from 1961 until 1979. From 1980 Half Blues were awarded to ladies who sailed in the Main (mixed) Match or Ladies Match, with Full Blues awarded for good BUSA performance. Minor modifications to the criteria have taken place over the years and the current Cambridge criteria are published on the CUCrC website. Oxford criteria are not available online.

Photo of ladies varsity trophy - a silver salver
O&CSS 75th Anniversary Ladies (Varsity) Salver

Mixed Team History

The first ‘mixed team’ Varsity Match was sailed in 1984, when Julian Ellwood (Trinity) invited Jenny Pocock (Emmanuel) to crew (Cambridge won), and the same thing happened in 1990 when Ian Walker (Downing) invited Liz Walker (New Hall/Murray Edwards – no relation!) to crew (Oxford won). However, the first mutually agreed ‘both teams mixed’ match, which Cambridge won, was not sailed until 2000 when Erin Delaney (Wolfson) and Becca O’Brien (Queens) crewed for Cambridge, and Nicole Johnson (St Edmund Hall) captained and helmed for Oxford (the first lady to do so). The following year Ari Liddell (New Hall/Murray Edwards, Cambridge Ladies Captain in 1999/2000) was the first lady helm for Cambridge – in the 2001 match on her home waters of Aldeburgh (Cambridge won). Eddie Glennie (Caius) was the first lady Cambridge (Mixed) Team Captain in 2008/09.

History of Ladies Match

The Ladies Match has been sailed as three-keel-boats-a-side since 2017 (with the option to default to two-a-side in a ‘lean’ year), and as two-keel-boats-a-side from 1995 to 2016. Previously it had been sailed three-dinghies-a-side, but only took place at the same venue as the main match from 1993 onwards. Before 1993 the match alternated between Oxford and Cambridge, the last ‘separate’ match being sailed at Farmoor in 1992. The date of the first Ladies Match, which Cambridge won, appears to have been 1958, and it was sailed at Oxford in flood conditions. Captain Hilary Fischer-Webb (now Weeks) reports:

Somehow I and my crew (Norma Bassett) managed to sail, unknowingly, into a neighbouring flooded field. This was brought to our notice when we hit the hedge trying to beat back across the river! Eventually we realised what had happened and had another go with a raised centreboard. This was successful, but we had been swept downstream and were perilously close to the roaring weir … Never have I been in so much fear of losing my ‘vessel’ and our presumably brilliant short tacking back to the mark beside the submerged hedge I cannot remember at all! Nor do I remember who won (Cambridge did – Ed). However the maiden Ladies Team were thrilled to be awarded Half Blues – a much nicer and more valued scarf than my Hockey Blue.

The current trophy for the Ladies Varsity Match, the O&CSS 75th Anniversary Ladies Salver, was presented by the Oxford & Cambridge Sailing Society on the occasion of the Society’s 75th Anniversary in 2009 – previously there had been only a very small EPNS trophy.

Cambridge Team Lists

An historic list of Cambridge teams is maintained on the CUCrC website: Mixed teams and Ladies teams. There is currently no online list of Oxford teams.

Analysis of Results to Date

In the main contest so far Cambridge has won 56 matches; Oxford 40; and 4 matches have been tied. Early ties resulted from the pre-1961 tradition of adding points up across races rather than scoring races won. (The famous 1970 tie in Dun Laoghaire happened because the sixth race, with Oxford leading 3-2 overall, was sailed in boisterous conditions. Some aggressive and rather unseamanlike sailing was initiated by Oxford at the 5-minute gun, only three boats finished the race, and Cambridge won on protests. In consultation with nervous Glen OD owners, the Royal St George YC Vice Commodore decided that the 7th race would not be sailed, so the match ended in a 3-all tie.) The numbering of the Ladies Match (in the ‘Place’ column) assumes that the match has taken place every year since the first match in 1958 – there are significant gaps in the records. All the years listed below are calendar years.

Year Winner Score Ladies Winner Score Place (From 1958 to 1992 the Ladies match alternated between Oxford and Cambridge)
2017 (100th Match) Cambridge 4-0 Cambridge 4-1 Itchenor (60th Ladies Match)
2016 Cambridge 4-0 Cambridge 4-3 Hamble
2015 Cambridge 4-0 Oxford 4-3 Strangford Lough YC, N Ireland
2014 Cambridge    4-1 Cambridge 4-0 Cowes
2013 Cambridge 4-1½ Oxford 4-3 Aldeburgh
2012 Oxford 4-1 Oxford 4-1 Itchenor
2011 Oxford 2-1 Oxford 2-1 Hayling Island
2010 Cambridge 4-2 Oxford 4-0 Lymington
2009 Oxford 4-2 Oxford 4-0 Itchenor
2008 Oxford 3-1 Cambridge 1-0 Cowes
2007 Cambridge 4-1 Oxford 4-0 Cowes (50th Ladies Match)
2006 Cambridge 4-2 Oxford 4-0 West Kirby
2005 Cambridge 4-2 Oxford Cowes
2004 Cambridge 4-1 Hamble
2003 Oxford 4-3 Cowes
2002 Cambridge 4-2 Hamble
2001 Cambridge 4-1 Aldeburgh
2000 Cambridge 4-1 Salcombe (Agreed mixed teams start)
1999 Cambridge 4-3 Aldeburgh
1998 Cambridge 4-0 Oxford Poole
1997 Cambridge 4-0 Cambridge Itchenor
1996 Oxford 4-1 Cambridge 4-1 St Mawes
1995 Cambridge 4-2 Cambridge 4-2 Harwich (Ladies keel boat matches start)
1994 Cambridge 4-3 Cambridge Yarmouth
1993 Oxford 4-2 Cambridge Itchenor (Ladies join men – in dinghies)
1992 (75th Match) Cambridge 4-3 Cambridge Harwich
1991 Cambridge 4-2 Cambridge 3-0 Itchenor
1990 Oxford 4-1 Cambridge Cowes (Cambridge men had 1 lady crew)
1989 Oxford 4-2 Bembridge
1988 Cambridge 4-1 Cowes
1987 Cambridge 4-2 Cowes
1986 Cambridge 4-1 Cambridge 4-0 Aldeburgh
1985 Cambridge 4-0 Cambridge Oulton Broad
1984 Cambridge 4-1 Cambridge Aldeburgh (Cambridge men had 1 lady crew)
1983 Oxford 4-1 Oxford Cowes
1982 Oxford 4-2 Oxford 4-1 Abersoch (25th Ladies Match)
1981 Cambridge 4-1 Oxford 4-0 Whiterock, Strangford Lough
1980 Cambridge 4-2 Cambridge 4-0 West Kirby
1979 Cambridge 4-0 Oxford 4-1 Beaumaris
1978 Cambridge 4-2 Oxford 4-2 Bridlington (Nine man teams start)
1977 Cambridge 4-2 Tie 1-1 Portsmouth
1976 Oxford 4-3 Cambridge 1-0 Lymington
1975 Oxford 4-3 Cambridge 3-1 Beaumaris
1974 Oxford 4-3 Oxford Hayling Island
1973 Oxford 4-3 Cambridge 2-0 Burnham-on-Crouch
1972 Oxford 4-1 Bembridge
1971 Cambridge 4-3 Oxford Lowestoft
1970 Tie 3-3 Dun Laoghaire
1969 Cambridge 4-3 Southsea
1968 Oxford 4-3 Parkstone
1967 (50th Match) Oxford 4-2 Dun Laoghaire
1966 Oxford 4-1 Seaview
1965 Oxford 4-1 Beaumaris
1964 Oxford 4-1 Upnor
1963 Cambridge 4-1 Parkstone
1962 Cambridge 4-2 Seaview
1961 Cambridge 4-2 Cambridge Rhu, Gareloch
1960 Cambridge 118-106½ Cambridge Bembridge
1959 Oxford 122-108½ Cambridge Burnham-on-Crouch
1958 Cambridge 105¼-89 Cambridge Cowes (1st Ladies Match – at Oxford)
1957 Oxford 124¼-104¼ Lowestoft
1956 Cambridge 121-113½ Bembridge
1955 Cambridge 122-113½ Falmouth
1954 Oxford 120-115½ Dun Laoghaire
1953 Oxford 64-61½ Warsash
1952 Cambridge 65-57½ Burnham-on-Crouch
1951 Oxford 63½-62½ Seaview
1950 Cambridge 63-55½ Poole
1949 Oxford 69-57½ Wolverstone
1948 Cambridge 64-57½ Lowestoft (Nine-man teams)
1947 Oxford 43½-40½ Poole
1946 Oxford 43¼-40¾ West Mersea
1945 Tie 21½-21½ Ranelagh (Putney)
1944 Oxford 23½-19 Ranelagh (Putney)
1943 Oxford 22¼-20¼ Ranelagh (Putney)
1942 (25th Match) Cambridge 12½-8 Ranelagh (Putney, two boat teams)
1941 Oxford 19½-9¼ Shiplake (Henley)
1940 No match World War II
1939 Cambridge 36-23½ Falmouth
1938 Cambridge 43½-40½ West Mersea
1937 Oxford 45¾-35¼ Bembridge
1936 Oxford 42-39 Southsea
1935 Cambridge 43-42 Hythe
1934 Tie 41-41 Cowes
1933 Cambridge 43-40 Lowestoft
1932 Cambridge 32-26 Burnham-on-Crouch
1931 Cambridge 30-28 Ryde
1930 Cambridge 45-38 Oulton Broad & Lowestoft (Three boat teams from here on)
1929 Cambridge 18-15 Lymington
1928 Cambridge 38½-25½ Weymouth
1927 Tie 38-38 Oulton Broad & Aldeburgh
1926 Oxford 37-29 Oulton Broad & Lowestoft
1925 Cambridge 36-19 Oulton Broad & Lowestoft
1924 Cambridge 27-34 Burnham-on-Crouch
1923 Oxford 32-31 Burnham-on-Crouch
1922 Oxford 12-9 Hythe
1921 Oxford 12-9 Hythe
1920 Oxford 15-12 Oulton Broad
1919 No match World War I aftermath
1918 No match World War I
1917 No match World War I
1916 No match World War I
1915 No match World War I
1914 Cambridge 2-1 Ely (Two or three boat teams from here on)
1913 Oxford 2-1 Oxford (Two boat team racing)
1912 Cambridge 2-1 Ely (Three match races)