First Woman in the Boat Race
The 4th of April 1981 AD
If we are honest, the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race is not the most fascinating sporting event in the British calendar, unless you have a particular attachment to one or other of those universities. The rest of us look forward to hearing about a sinking, and don’t bother to watch it unless one happens in which case we will check out a recording. In 1981, however, the boat race got a major publicity boost – that for 1980 when Hugh Laurie rowed was retrospective – with the first participation of a woman in the event.
Susan Brown was a biochemistry student at Wadham College Oxford, already an Olympian having coxed the British women’s four in Moscow the previous year. In spite of what she claimed was her poor steering the Oxford boat won the 1981 race, and the next year they repeated the victory with Ms Brown again at the helm. Coxes have to steer and to co-ordinate the efforts of the rowers, but of course they do not themselves row so the lighter they are the better: Susan Brown is said to have weighed in at a tiny 6st 12lb (96lb for our American readers), or about 44kg.
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