Cambridge University Boat Club President Henry Pelly issued the official Challenge, to race on The Thames in just 19 weeks’ time, to his Oxford counterpart Colin Smith at a reception at the Portland Gallery in London and it was promptly accepted.

The reception acted as the launch of the Boat Race season and attracted a range of guests from the world of sport, rowing, local government, the media and old Blues. They were welcomed by the Chairman of The Boat Race Company, Giles Vardey, who spoke of the unique history of an event first contested 179 years ago. David Andrews, CEO of sponsor Xchanging, also said a few words about the Olympic achievements of Boat Race rowers.

The Race – which is sponsored by Xchanging, the fast-growing international pure-play business processing company – will be the 155th annual contest between the two University crews. Oxford will be looking for a fourth victory in six years to close the gap to just four wins between them, while Cambridge will be aiming for their 80th win to celebrate the University’s 800th anniversary.

Oxford President Colin Smith, 24 from Henley-on-Thames, rowed at No.2 seat in the Dark Blue victory of 2006, having lost in the Race two years earlier. This year, he stroked the GB Men’s Eight to a silver medal at the Beijing Games and began an MBA course at St. Catherine’s College.

Cambridge President Henry Pelly, also 24, rowed at No.3 in the 2008 losing Light Blue boat and is looking to gain a degree in Environmental Design in Architecture at St Edmund’s College over the next two years. Now living in London, he went to school at Eton College and was World University Champion in the Men’s Double Scull in 2006.

The 2009 Boat Race will take place at 15:40 on Sunday, 29 March and is to be televised live on ITV, which attracted a peak audience of 7.6m this year.

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