Rivalry between Cambridge and Oxford universities has taken many forms. Once, there was a motorsport version too.
If one thinks of Cambridge (the ‘light blues’) competing with Oxford (the ‘dark blues’) then the contest which most readily springs to mind is the boat race, first held on the Thames in 1829 and then annually since 1856, with interruptions during the First and Second World Wars.
While the rivalry between the two great learning institutions has taken many forms, from rugby to ice hockey, there was also a motorsport competition in the 1920s.
The 1923 edition was held on Ashton-Clinton Hill, near Tring in Hertfordshire, and while it was notable for many attributes, including a resounding victory for Cambridge, one point of particular interest, and noted in the press, was the use of a ‘most ingenious timing apparatus’ which we learn was the ‘…invention of Mr Alan S Brereton, son of Col Brereton, chairman of the ACU.’ It was described thus:
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“Current was tapped from a Vauxhall car’s accumulators, and served to work the timing device. A flying start of 15 yards was allowed, and as a competitor actually passed a line he broke a thread which started the watch; at the finish line he broke another thread, which stopped the same watch.”
It was reported: “Both this apparatus and the telephones worked admirably.”
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