In preparation for the first Women’s Boat Race, held on the Isis on 15 March 1927, the women of Oxford University Boat Club submitted to an ascetic regime, as was reported in the Western Morning News at the time.
The women’s day would start with a long walk at half-past seven, followed by a hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon, fish, toast and marmalade. After a morning of study and lunch of cold meat, salad and fruit they then headed to the river for an outing, except on Sundays when time in the boat was substituted with a four-mile walk. The post-training tea was a light affair, but they had a substantial dinner before bed at half-past ten.
The women’s social lives were curtailed, as trips to the cinema and dances were not allowed, along with morning coffee and eating between meals. Worse still, the ‘cocoa orgy, that form of revelry so dear to the heart of the Oxford Undergraduette’ was strictly forbidden.
Oxford’s regime paid off, as they won the ‘race’ – in which the crews took to the water separately to be judged on ‘steadiness, rhythm, beginning and finish of stroke, general impression and speed’ over a half-mile course – by a substantial margin over Newnham College, representing Cambridge (CUWBC was not founded until 1940).
Undiscouraged, the Newnham women then went to London the following week for more racing: their fixture against UCL over the last mile of the Boat Race course was apparently the first official boat race between women on that part of the Thames. They then took on KCL, despite rumours that the King’s women had, in seeking coaching from their boatman, a professional, violated the rules of the ARA and had thus become professionals. The complaint was not upheld and the race went ahead, only for Newnham to lose by stopping before the finish line.