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Flags in sports - Rowing

Last modified: 2022-03-12 by zachary harden
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Rowing competitions


Oxford-Cambridge rowing race doubtful flag

[Owford-Cambridge rowing race doubtful flag] image Ivan Sache, April 06, 2003.

The traditional Oxford-Cambridge rowing race took place today on the river Thames, in England. The Oxford eight won the 4.2 mile race by 0.003 second (~20 cm), the shortest difference ever recorded (except a draw in 1877 and a capsizing of both eights another year). Near the finish line, a rectangular 1:2 flag made of seven vertical black and white stripes was hoisted on a building. What could it be? A university flag, a yacht-club flag, a sponsor's flag, anything else?
Ivan Sache, April 06, 2003.

If I recall, there are only two flags used in rowing races. One is red, which signals the start and finish of a race, and the other is white, which signals caution. Accordingly, this flag must not be related to the actual competition.
Sean McKinniss, April 06, 2003.

Could this be a flag used in signaling in river navigation? I have seen some flags for the purpose recently, but I can't remember where, so I can't check...
Željko Heimer, April 07, 2003.

Based on information at https://www.theboatrace.org/the-basics, https://www.theboatrace.org/about-us and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Boat_Race, the particular flag reported back in 2003, was seen during the "The Boat Race 2003", hence the 149th Boat Race, precisely close to Chiswick Bridge, where the race ends.

The Boat Race is an annual set of rowing races between the Cambridge University Boat Club and the Oxford University Boat Club, rowed between open-weight eights on the River Thames in London, England. There are separate men's and women's races, as well as races for reserve crews. It is also known as the University Boat Race and the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race. The first race took place on June 10, 1829 and it became an annual competition since 1856.

The Championship Course has hosted the vast majority of the races. It covers a 4.2-mile (6.8 km) stretch of the Thames in West London, from Putney to Mortlake. Other locations have been used, including a stretch of the River Great Ouse which will be utilised for the 2021 race. Members of both crews are traditionally known as blues and each boat as a "Blue Boat", with Cambridge in light blue and Oxford in dark blue.

It may have been a flag displayed either over a particular boat house to represent it or perhaps a sponsor flag as well, since this practice is very common on such events (as seen for example here, regarding flags displayed at St. Anne's College Boat House seen during the Summer's Eight, also known as Eights Week competition.
Sources: http://theboatraces.org/ , https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Boat_Race, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Boat_Race_2003, http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/other_sports/boat_race_2003/2841289.stm, http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/photo_galleries/2922443.stm , http://www.biddulph.org.uk/ubr03.htm, https://ablitt.smugmug.com/Rowing/Head-Races/Fours-Head-2003/i-kHnzbFj,
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eights_Week and
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Championship_Course

Video sources of the competition, especially the final moments (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqN_OF8ZER0) unfortunately do not cover much of the surroundings, so no flags have been spotted, nor even in the full video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zv0qDaZG-as) showing the complete race race (more than 22 minutes in length). The only banner seen on the bridge is that of "Aberdeen Asset Management".

As mentioned before, there seem to be other flags used on boats during the competition such as this one seen in the final moments of the 149th Boat Race, which is the The Boat Race (2003 edition) and it is the Aberdeen Asset Management flag, the official event sponsor.

Also, in the vicinity of the finish mark, no flags have been spotted either, at least as seen in this picture: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Boat_Race_at_Barnes_Bridge_2003_-_Oxford_winners.jpg (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Boat_Race_2003).

My guess on the flag in question is that it is a variant of the LRC, perhaps spotted with backlight, which makes it look black instead of its original dark blue colors.
Esteban Rivera, 4 February 2022