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In this account of the University boat races I have tried to summarise the events on the river, including what matters of history, correspondence, poems and prints that I can find. See the official boat race site.

FIRST BOAT RACE 1829 at Henley
Oxford University v Cambridge University

I have included this section here for convenience even though the 1829 boatrace was at Henley

1828: Charles Wordsworth in 'Annals of my Early Life' -

I had then begun to take to rowing, and was frequently on the river [at Oxford] in an evening, pulling stroke in an amateur six-oar with a crew of Christ Church friends.

The practice thus acquired brought me into notice as an oarsman, and, when I was at Cambridge in the following Christmas and Easter vacations, enabled me to take a place occasionally in the Johnian boat, then, I think, at the top of the river, on the invitation of my old Harrow schoolfellow, Charles Merivale, now Dean of Ely, and others of that crew with whom I had become acquainted, especially G.A.Selwyn, afterwards Bishop, and Snow, the stroke, both Etonians.

Encouraged by the example of the inter-University cricket match, which had taken place in 1827, we talked over the possibility of getting up a similar competition in rowing; and the result was that a correspondence took place between Snow and Staniforth, Captain of the Christ Church boat, who had been schoolfellows and boating comrades at Eton, which ended by fixing a day for the proposed encounter.

R C Lehmann, in an article on Cambridge Rowing in the English Illustrated Magazine, 1889, writes -

On February 20, 1829, at a meeting of the [Cambridge University Boat Club] Committee, held in Mr. Gisborne's rooms, it was resolved, inter alia, "That Mr. Snow, St. John's, be requested to write immediately to Mr. Staniforth, Christ Church, Oxford, proposing to make up a University match"; and on March 12, on the receipt of a letter from Mr. Staniforth, Christ Church, Oxford, a meeting of the U.B.C. was called at Mr. Harman's rooms, Caius College, when the following resolution was passed - "That Mr. Stephen Davies (the Oxford boat-builder) be requested to post the following challenge in some conspicuous part of his barge - 'That the University of Cambridge hereby challenge the University of Oxford to row a match at or near London, each in an eight-oared boat during the ensuing Easter vacation.'"

Thus was brought about the first race between the two Universities. Mr. Snow was appointed captain, and it was further decided that the University Boat Club should defray all expenses, and that the match be not made up for money.

The tradition became that the loser would issue the challenge for the next year

Not only did they start the 'boat race' but when it was moved from Henley, the townsfolk felt so deprived that they started what was to become The Henley Royal Regatta.

Charles Merivale wrote to Charles Wordsworth. We do not have that letter, but this was the reply -

June 2nd.

My dear Merivale,
Thank you very much for your letter. Its impudence was unparalleled. I do not know which to admire most, its direct assertions or occult insinuations. The very supposition of my being in our boat here quite rejoiced you. Allow me to assure you of the truth of the report.
But this is not the only bone I have to pick with you. The sufficiently candid manner in which you talk 'of lasting us out'(!!!) amuses me so much, that I am ready to die with laughter whenever I think of it. My dear fellow, you cannot possibly know our crew, or you would not write in such an indiscreet manner. Allow me to enlighten you:

8. Staniforth (Christ Church Boat): 4 feet across the shoulders and as many through the chest (διαμπάξ).
7. Moore (Christ Church Boat): 6 feet 1 inch; in all probability a relation of the giant whom the 'three rosy-cheeked schoolboys built up on the top of Helm Crag', so renowned for length and strength of limb.
6. Garnier (Worcester boat): splendid oar.
5. Toogood (Balliol Boat) - [Toogood] for you: but just the man for us.
4. Wordsworth (new oar): has neither words nor worth, action or utterance, etc. I only (row) right on; I tell you that that you yourselves do know.
3. Croft (Balliol Boat): no recommendation necessary.
2. Arbuthnot (Balliol Boat): strong as Bliss's best (Harrow beer).
1. Carter (St John's four-oar): 'potentior ictu fulmineo'.

Thus far this letter was written three or four days ago in Popham's rooms, the infection of whose company must be my excuse for its saucy style.
The fact is, our boat has been reduced to a considerable pickle, owing to some of our best oars not being able to pull, Stephen Davies's mismanagement, and one or two other minor considerations.
We have at last, however, got under way with a fixed crew, and matters are proceeding rather more swimmingly. You will see by the above list that our stroke has been changed.
Our days at Henley will be Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Monday. Our uniform - black straw hats, dark blue striped jerseys, and canvas trousers: you must not abuse it, as Garnier and I were chosen to decide upon it.
Now I think of it, you wished to know our boat. It is the old Balliol, built by Stephen Davies. This I am sure will please you.
However I am still ready to take two to one.
With kind remembrance to all friends and brothers,
Believe me,
My dear Merivale,
Sincerely yours,
C. Wordsworth.

In all probability there will be a four-oar at henley, too happy to be manned by a limb of the victorious Cambridge crew - but we shall meet at Henley before the day of the race and then i will let you know all about it.

Do I detect a little spin? I think Oxford were trying to line up a little betting coup on the side? And they a future Bishop and a future Dean!

Another Oxford undergraduate, F K Leighton, wrote to a Cambridge undergraduate, a certain Charles Darwin -

Magdalen College, Oxford.
Wednesday, 3rd June, 1829

My dear Charles,
I do not know whether you take much interest in the trials of strength, which are about to take place between the sister Universities, — but, if you are inclined to take this opportunity of exploring our 'classic shades' I shall be most happy to be your chaperon to Henly for the boat race ...

I hear the Cantabs are very confident of success, & there has been so much dissension among our crew & mismanagement among the directors, that I think there is every probability of your being triumphant. However I have sufficient exprit de corps to support my colours, &, if any of your betting characters are inclined to bet 3 to 1 on the Cambridge Heroes, I shall be obliged to you if you would take the bet for me as far as £5 will go —

I trust I shall receive a favorable answer — Write immediately & tell me the day & hour you mean to come here & I will have all things in readiness for you.

Yrs. very truly,
F. K. Leighton.

Yes, somebody is being played for a sucker. Though given his later achievement Charles Darwin might have not been a good choice of victim. Did he learn about survival of the fittest at university?

1829: June 'Sporting Magazine' -

There are several matches on the stocks. That which engrosses most attention, and has given rise to a great deal of betting, is for £500 a side, the antagonists being eight Cantabs v. eight Oxonians.


It was reported that the match was for a very large sum; but we have authority for stating that it was by no means a gambling match, but a trial of strength and skill.

Charles Merivale wrote to his mother -

29th May

... I hardly know whether it is necessary to caution you not to believe an advertisement which is to be seen in some of the papers about the match being for £500. It is not an exaggeration even, but a lie. In fact I have not sixpence staked thereon.

1: Wednesday, 10th June, 1829

In 1829 OXFORD WON EASILY, Hambleden Lock to Henley Bridge, 14 min 40 secs. Oxford 1, Cambridge 0

The 1829 course was from Hambleden Lock to Henley Bridge, about 2.25 miles.

The 1829 Boat Race Course.

The course comprised the three quarters of a mile or more from above Hambleden Lock upstream round a 120 degree bend, to Temple Island, the modern Henley Royal Regatta start, down the more or less straight 1 mile and 550 yards of what is now the Regatta Course, and then round the slight bend at Poplar Point the few hundred yards to the finish at Henley Bridge, (which became the finish for the first Henley Regattas).

Some 20,000 seats were arranged. However Henley Regatta started as it intended to go on and there was a massive storm on the morning of the regatta and the headquarters were damaged by lightning! All the same we are British and a little water did not deter us. It is thought that the attendance was comparable with the normal daily attendance at the modern Henley Royal Regattas.

Cambridge won the toss and chose the Berkshire towpath side, the LEFT bank. This gave them the long long bend in their favour from the start to Temple Island, the right to take the Berkshire side of Temple Island (the channel then was much narrower than it is now - the bank having been straightened to facilitate the modern regatta start - and certainly Oxford reckoned that it was a slightly greater distance than going the Bucks side of Temple Island, but that there was an advantage because it had a much lower current - they were rowing upstream - Cambridge however preferred the shorter course.

Walter Bradford Woodgate, in 'Boating' wrote -

Mr. Staniforth [Oxford stroke] states that till the Oxford went to practise over the course, no one thought of steering an eight through the Berks channel, past 'regatta' island. However, the Oxonians timed the two straits, and decided to select the Berks one, if they got the chance. They took that channel in the race and won easily. A foul occurred in the first essay at starting, and the boats were restarted.

Detail Temple Island Boydell 1793
Temple Island detail, Boydell 1793
Cambridge were on the far side (Berks) in the above print rowing upstream from left to right

so here at the very outset of the boat races was a recipe for disaster: the Berks boat wanted to take the Bucks side, and the Bucks boat wanted to take the Berks side. [I am aware that the second half of the course on the non Berks side is in Oxfordshire but it is always referred to as the Bucks side] ) and, if the boats were still overlapping, Cambridge would have the slight bend near the finish also in their favour. Throughout the first half century of Victorian Henley Regattas it was said that this last bend favoured the Berkshire side and it was very difficult to do anything to correct that. They eventually moved the Regatta finish downstream to avoid this.
Cambridge started as favourites, and this choice of side confirmed the general opinion.

However Oxford had other ideas. They determined to take the Berkshire channel at Temple Island, and of course to do this they had to get ahead of Cambridge. They nearly made it, but the boats clashed and stopped very near to the modern regatta start, and the race had to be restarted.

'London Society' (some years later, quoted in 'The Centenary History of the Boat Race') -

What really happened was this, The Cambridge men, having won the toss, chose the Berkshire shore.

Then, at the start, the Cambridge coxswain steered out into the stream. If the course so steered had been acquiesced in by the Oxford coxswain, the Oxford boat would have sustained a serious loss. He held his course and a foul ensued.

Charles Wordsworth [Oxford 4] wrote in 1881 -

We lost the toss and consequently the bank side; but we made a splendid start, and by the time we reached the [Temple] island, having gained about a boat's length, our coxswain (a very good one on the Oxford river) being too impatient to strike in and place us on the landward side, a foul took place and we had to start afresh.

Staniforth [Oxford stroke], Toogood [Oxford 5], and Moore [Oxford 7] will remember it; but perhaps the good Dean of Ripon [Oxford cox F.R.Freemantle] will think the less said about it the better; especially as it was most effectively remedied afterwards.

On the second attempt Oxford got far enough ahead that they could take Cambridge's water without a clash. Cambridge took the outside of Temple Island. Oxford stayed in the lead all the way right through to Henley Bridge and the finish.

The first boat race finish at Henley Bridge, 1829 -

Boat race finish, Henley 1829
Boat race finish, Henley 1829

These boats look rather like fours, though I think I can see four oars on bow side in the second boat. It maybe the artist was unobservant or didn't think it mattered; but maybe some of the early eights with oarsmen more or less side by side in pairs looked rather like fours at a distance. In the Oxford individual boat picture they look to be in line astern, but in the Cambridge individual picture they could be in pairs. Could there have been such a discrepancy between the boats?

The leading boat in the finish picture is on Bucks which was the side that Oxford had, since Cambridge chose Berks. However with that much lead this is very poor steering, unless of course they were so confident in their lead that they didn't have to worry!

London Society -

It has never fallen to my lot to hear such a shout since. There was fierce applause at the installation of the Duke of Wellington a few years after, but applause that fills a valley is a different thing.

It is of course one of the great thrills of Henley Regatta, that one moment there is the usual buzz of conversation and the band playing away industriously in the background, and the next a great surge of sound comes up the course and sets the place alight.

In 'The First Boat Race' in C.B.Fry's Magazine of 1906 an 'Amateur Oarsman' who wrote in 1829 is quoted -

This long-talked-of contest came off in Henley Reach, on Wednesday 11th of the month. [It was actually the 10th]; and has proved that, though the Oxonians are not a match for the Londoners, they are too good a crew for their antagonists of the sister University.
The [Oxford] boat was built by Stephen Davis, who was "professor of rowing" and factotum in all aquatic matters to the University, and it was 2ft shorter that that used by Cambridge.
The crew, it is said, averaged from 11st to 11st 5lbs in weight each, and a finer crew was perhaps never seen. They were all powerful, well grown, and good looking (so said many of the female spectators). Five of them (the Christchurch men) were part of the crew when the Oxonians rowed against the Londoners last season [June 28th 1828, Christchurch v Leander (then of course a London Club) - Leander won by 70 yards] They were dressed in "Jersey's" with black hats and handkerchiefs, their boat being green.

The boat in which the Cambridge men rowed was built expressly for the race by Searle & Son of Lambeth, and to such a nicety was she planked that they took the precaution of weighing the men, who averaged 10st 11½lbs. But though the boat was acknowledged to be one of the most beautiful ever built in those days, she did not suit the men. She does not carry herself so well as might have been aniticipated when manned. She does what is technically termed 'bury forward', which to a certain extent impedes her progress. However I should say that, were a crew of equal power to be put into her, with a proper arrangement as to weights, they would prove dangerous antagonists. The Oxford men were thus the heavier crew. The Cambridge men were dressed in white with pink handkerchiefs, their boat being of that colour.

The day was perfect for the race, and had the competitors waited until the morning before deciding to row they could not have hit upon a better day. A great deal of interest was aroused in Henley and the country round, and on the Tuesday before the race not a bed was to be had in the town. Moreover some of the principal residents held a meeting on the previous Saturday, and decided to provide several bands of music, and to have a dsiplay of fireworks in the evening, for which purpose a subscription was opened there and then.

Even before the all-important day the Oxford men supplied an attraction to the casual visitors who flocked into the little town, by sending their boat over from Oxford on the 3rd of the month, and riding across to pull the course and back on that evening, and on the Thursday, Saturday, and Monday following. On several occasions in practice Stephen Davis had to act as a substitute for one of the crew who was unwell.

On the actual day of the race the good people of Henley rang the church bells all day, and as ear;ly as ten o'clock in the morning the residents in the country round began to pour into the town, and by one o'clock all the roads leading to the river were crowded with carriages and carts of every description.

Oxford men were, of course, in the majority, but there were a good number of Cambridge men, and both parties, and their sisters and cousins, wore the colours of their respective champions.

As the time fixed for the start drew near, the crowds on the banks of the river grew dense, and it is computed that at least twenty thousand persons must have come to witness the race..

It was about a quarter past seven in the evening when the Oxford boat, which had been undergoing a most elaborate preparation at the hands of Stephen Davis, was launched, amid the cheers of the crowd. Mr Fremantle, the coxswain, then got into her, and, having ascertained that all was right, called on his men to take their places, and they pulled slowly to the thatched cottage just above the first lock. The Cambridge men immediately followed suit, and rowed up alongside, accompanied by several of the London, Eton, and Oxford boats.

The majority of the spectators, we are told, expressed opinions in favour of Oxford.

Prior to the start it was proposed by the Oxford men that there should be no fouling, but that boats should pull clear of one another, in order to let the best crew win. The Cambridge men won the toss, and chose the inside station [Berks], which gave them a shorter curve than the other side.

On the pistol being fired the boats went of at a splitting rate, the Oxford boat making ahead almost on the first stroke; but on their arrival at the point of the curve, whether from over-eagerness on the part of Mr Freemantle(sic) to clear the Cantabs, or an intention to compel them to cripple themselves by rowing too much in shore, I will not undertake to decide (though it was against the principal laid down on setting out), he put his boat so closely round as to cause the stroke oar and No.6 of his own crew to lock with the bow and No.3 of their opponents. A cry of "Foul" from the latter put a stop to the match on that start, and gave rise to the discussion already alluded to.
[ No such discussion appears in the C.B.Fry's magazine of 1906 from which this is taken. But see below * ]

A fresh start was ultimately agreed upon, and having gone off again the Oxford boat drew away every stroke; and on reaching the bridge were considerably ahead. The winners were greeted with deafening cheers from the assembled multitude, and on their landing the bells struck up a merry peal.

The distance is estimated at two miles and a quarter, and was rowed against the current in something less than fourteen minutes. So ended the first inter-University boat race which was singularly lacking in incident after the start.

* The discussion to which the writer refers was an interchange of heated expressions after the foul, but happily "no farther (serious) notice was taken of them after the decision of the match."

In 'The Oxonian' by Quip, in Bentley's Miscellany, 1839 -


On the morning of the day immediately preceding that appointed for the celebration of the Annual Festival of the Commemoration at Oxford, the small and usually quiet town of Henley-upon-Thames exhibited an extraordinary appearance of bustle and preparation.

It was the day on which the long-expected boat-race between the rival universities was at length to be decided; and the holiday looks and holiday costumes of the inhabitants, seemed alike to have been donned for the purpose of ushering in the approaching struggle with due and fitting honours.
But Henley, with its broad river and rich green fields, of all places that I know, seems the very spot for an outbreak of innocent excitement — a May-day dance — a midsummer cricket-match — a scene like that through which the course of my story and my "grey goose quill" are now about to bear me.

And how gay it looked on that bright morning! Its mirth was that of a schoolboy let loose from school; so full of life it seemed, so youthful, so eager for the coming sport. Gay groups of feminine and rosy faces studded every window, like apricots clustering on the tree; ribands streamed from every head like pennants from a flag-ship fitted up for a regatta; and every eye was intently strained to catch the first glance of the various vehicles as they dashed in from Oxford and the more immediate neighbourhood.

On they came, — gig, tandem, barouche, and drag, — with here and there a galloping horseman, scorning fatigue, and shouting for accommodation to the highest pitch of his excited lungs, and ever and anon wheeling sharp round in search of some more capacious hostelry, and cutting through sundry Gordian knots of corpulent and calculating tradesmen, who filled every turn of every street alike with their persons and their discussions as to the probable event of the race.
It is not my intention to describe — what was so much better described at the time by the newspapers — the race itself

The wild rush of cheering partizans along the banks, which re-echoed their shouts;
the boat's crew of townsmen, who had been appointed to keep all other boats out of the way, and who were always in it themselves;
the Oxonians who pushed the Cantabs into the river, and the Cantabs who retaliated upon the Oxonians, all by accident, of course;
the toes that were trodden on, and the pardons that were not begged;
the maddening shout of victory which rose when the Oxford boat rowed in triumphant;
and the flag which Mr. Ravelall, the mercer, had cautiously affirmed to be a fishing-rod till the race was over, and which he proudly displayed at its close;
— all this, together, with the intense anxiety instigated by the apothecary of Henley, and instantly manifested by half the inhabitants in succession, to feel the arms and legs of the winning candidates, are beside my present purpose.

The life and times of Peter Priggins - an Oxford College Servant recounts a letter from a supporter about running with the 1829 race [I think! (This may be fiction and may not refer to 1829 - it certainly has an account of a false start, though rather unlike other accounts) ] -

But to the race itself. About seven o'clock the rival crews pulled gently down to the starting-place, about two miles below Henley bridge distinguished by their colours. Oxford, true blue; Cambridge, pink; and every thing was arranged by the umpires in a quiet, gentlemanly way, without any wrangling.

There was a toss for choice of sides, which was won by the Cambridge men; and of course, they chose the bank on their bows, as the river forms a rather sharp curve to the left, between the locks and the town.

There was to be no fouling, and the victory was to belong to the party who passed first under the bridge.

Just before the start, every inch of ground that could command a view of the river on either side, was occupied by gazers of all sorts and sizes — lords and ladies, Jans and Jinnies, saints and sinners, cockneys and country bumpkins — it was an universal holiday in that part of the world ; and Miss Martineau might have applied her preventive check, without any fear of restraining the population upon this occasion.

The Oxford boat belonged to Balliol Coll., built by Davis and King; the Cambridge was a bran-new[sic] turn out of Serle's, and one of the neatest I ever saw: though it struck me, when I examined her on shore as she was being greased, that she was too crank for the crew that were to pull in her — all men of weight and inches; perhaps, two finer crews were never seen; but our [Oxford] men were rather the longer and lighter in their corpuscula of the two.

At eight o'clock precisely, the order was given for 'Up with your oars;' and in two minutes at the word 'Off,' they dropped them in beautifully — as one man; but a cry of 'False start,' owing to some little dispute about the exact distance from blade to blade, caused them to backwater, and prepare again.

In five minutes the referees made all right, and 'Off she goes,' was again cried. Away they went! and before they got three hundred yards, my experienced eye could see that my conjecture about the London boat, was quite correct. She dipped in the bows every stroke, as if they were going to pull her under water, and rocked fearfully until they got into good time. The short stroke too, with the back quite straight, and the arms doing all the work, would not do on smooth water, compared with the long pull through the water, and quick feather out of it, of the Oxford men, who gained rapidly upon, and soon passed their rivals, taking the inside place.

I was close upon them both, and could hear the steady cry of the steersman,
'Go it, my blues—beautifully pulled! — three minutes more, and your work's done — they lose ground (water he meant) every moment — — steady! — no hurry — keep the old stroke! — backs down on the thwarts,' from the Oxford boat;
and the 'By George, we're beaten! — quicken your stroke — don't you go back so, you No. 3 — pull for heaven's sake!' of the Cambridge.

I pulled up about a quarter of a mile from the bridge, being quite satisfied how it was going, and thoroughly blown from the speed and nature of my exertions; for no one, who has not tried it, knows what 'running up' with an eight-oar means — the snobs were wofully taken to that day, being shoved, unreservedly, some into the river, others into ditches, by the more au fait Oxonians.

A tremendous shout, and the striking up of the church bells, proclaimed the victory was won by the Oxford men, with one hundred yards to spare!! !

I jumped into a punt with poor Stephen, and by dint of his superior generalship, got on the opposite bank in time to see our crew land ; and the best proof of their excellent condition was, that not one man was so distressed as to be obliged to be helped out of the boat. Our opponents came in rather more distressed, but still not much the matter. Such a shouting was still going on, that it was impossible to hear anything said until Stephen thundered out 'Now, my true blues ! as much porter as you like !'

The 1829 Cambridge crew wore white, with a scarlet or pink sash, which was their captain's colour at St John's College. Oxford wore white jerseys with dark blue stripes.

J Carter,
J E Arbuthnot,
J E Bates,
C Wordsworth, 11.10
J J Toogood, 14.10
T Garnier,
G B Moore, 12. 4
T Staniforth, 12. 0
W R Fremantle, 8. 2

A B E Holdsworth, 10. 7
A F Bayford, 10. 8
C Warren, 10.10
C Merivale, 11. 0
T Entwisle, 11. 4
W T Thompson, 11.10
G A Selwyn, 11.13
W Snow, 11. 4
B R Heath, 9. 4

The coxes were not professional boatmen as I have seen stated elsewhere. At least if they were, they were exceptional, because one became Dean of Ripon and the other an army officer.
But who were the others? By eventual career the crews looked like this -

Rector of Frenchay
Army then Sugar Planter, Malaya
Rector of Stratton Audley
Bishop of St Andrews
Prebendary of York
Dean of Lincoln
Rector of Tunstall
Rector of Bolton-by-Bolland
Dean of Ripon

Lay Rector Okehampton, Army, JP
Chancellor of Manchester Diocese
Rector of Farnborough
Dean of Ely
Curate of Ridley and Ash
Bishop of New Zealand then Lichfield

At the Jubilee Dinner (on the Fiftieth Anniversary - which did not happen until 1881) there was a latin poem produced describing the event, which was then translated in the Official Centenary Book in 1929. One of its verses ran:

Merivale, historian famous,
Proves that Cambridge would have won
Had not fate resolved to tame us,
Had not sons of Isis done
Better e'en that sons of Camus
In that Boat Race number one.

Merivale rowed four for Cambridge and was Dean of Ely in 1881. What his contribution amounted to was that Cambridge would have won if only Oxford had not rowed faster!

Now compare the boats. I reckon that the Oxford boat had a very considerable advantage!
It is not easy to compare these two photos - but look at the height of the bows and sterns - and then look at the way the Oxford crew seem to be inline astern, whereas the Cambridge crew are almost sitting in pairs abreast of one another.

The Oxford Boat of 1829 -

Oxford Crew of 1829
The Oxford Crew of 1829

The Cambridge Boat of 1829 -

Cambridge Crew of 1829
The Cambridge Crew of 1829

Oxford 1829 Boat
Oxford 1829 Boat

The Oxford 1829 boat was 45' 4" long and 4' 3" wide and with oars weighed 972lb
Just 20 feet longer than my punt, almost twice as wide and three times the weight!

For comparison the 1929 Oxford Boat by Sims [shown below] was 62' 6" long, 2' wide and weighed with oars 350 lb.

In 1829 the crew sat as far away as possible from their rowlock so as to give the maximum leverage (outriggers were not used until 1846) The crew were very far from being in line and the balance of the boat was hardly an issue.
The seats were 7" unmoving thwarts (slides came in in 1873). There was apparently no provision for the feet.
Each oar was of a different length with a different inboard length so that the handle just reached the opposite side of the boat - and this was no notional adjustment - Bow's oar was overall 13' 6" and four's was 15' 3.5"!

A photo taken in 1929 shows the difference in a hundred years of boat building.

1829 & 1929 Boatrace Oxford Boats
1829 Oxford Boat - 1929 Oxford Boat

In 2007 a boat said to be something like the Oxford boat rowed in 1829, competed in the Great River Race. But I think it looks more like the Cambridge boat in the picture above. The oarsmen are definitely in pairs whereas certainly the Oxford 1829 boat had evenly spaced seats (28" apart) -

Old Balliol Boatrace Gig in 2007
Old Balliol Boatrace Gig in 2007

Henley Regatta page (for which the above race was part of its history)

1830: Cambridge issued a challenge again, but the plans were dropped due to a cholera epidemic.

1831: An Oxford University crew challenged Leander for £200, and Lost.

Click for Hammersmith Bridge