Boat races and regattas are mainstays of the British summer - but where did these races originate and how have they become so important a part of our culture? Historian, writer and vice sculler Julie Summers here explains the history of British rowing as a competitive sport from the early nineteenth century to the present day. She then profiles the three most famous rowing events: the Boat Race, rowed on the incoming tide from Putney to Mortlake in spring; Henley Royal Regatta, which takes place on the first weekend of July; and the Olympic Games, which have yielded some of the greatest British Olympians of all time, including Sir Steve Redgrave, Sir Matthew Pinsent and Jack Beresford.
Educated at Bristol and London universities, Julie Summer had a twenty year career in the art world as an exhibition organiser prior to taking up writing full time in 2004. She is a keen oarswoman and holds the title of national indoor rowing champion for her age-group for 5,000m and has won two gold medals at the Masters Rowing Championships (2010 and 2011). Two of her sons have rowed internationally and her older son is in the GB Under 23 squad. She had to learn to write about rowing in 1999 when she was working on the biography of Sandy Irvine, who was in the Oxford crew in 1922 and 1923. She has contributed to Rowing & Regatta magazine on several occasions and has worked closely with the River & Rowing Museum in Henley with whom she has an excellent relationship.