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Digital Subscriptions > Row360 > Issue 027 – May | Jun 2019 > Life’s Work: Part II

Life’s Work: Part II

The River & Rowing Museum opened on 6 November 1998. Chris Dodd celebrates its 21st birthday by recalling its origin and passage to fame.

Assembling a collection of boats to meet one or all three of our criteria – prototype, fame or representation – was a lot of fun as well as a challenge. The most significant were destined for display, including the historical bookends of eight-oared racing consisting of the cutter that won the first University Boat Race for Oxford in 1829, and Carbon Tiger, a revolutionary prototype that made its entry in 1976.

A Cornishman working for Isaac King in Oxford built the Oxford boat – sometimes described as a cutter, sometimes a gig – for Balliol College in 1828. It is of clinker construction (aka lapstreak, consisting of overlapping planks) with seats either side of the keel and owing design features to ocean-going Cornish pilot gigs and boats that plied their trade on the non-tidal

Thames. It was liberated from the Science Museum, although there was a dodgy moment when its keeper had second thoughts about releasing it just as we allotted it pride of place in the rowing gallery. The RRM’s CEO, Jonathan Bryant, called me to his voice and asked what I would do if the Oxford boat remained in South Kensington.

“I’d leave a big space with a prominent caption accusing the Science Museum of reneging on an agreement,” I told him. “And issue a press release trumpeting the situation.”

The Oxford boat was moved to Henley – the place where it made history in 1829 – in the small hours of a Sunday morning after being craned through a hole in the wall of its old home.

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About Row360

Welcome to Row360, the world’s only global, independent rowing magazine. Row360 brings you features from around the world, profiling the best athletes, coaches, and others from the whole rowing community – Olympic, adaptive, college, club, ocean, and more.