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Two London events go head-to-head this weekend to showcase the best of British tradition – and silliness.

Not only is Easter ace because we get a four-day weekend, but Easter Sunday – March 31 – will host two of the more quintessentially British events you could hope to say “jolly splendid!” to. One is the model of English tradition, The Oxford & Cambridge Boat Race, while its rival, The Oxford & Cambridge Goat Race, dishes out GB eccentricity.

Saddling up for Oxford on the Thames is Kiwi Sam O’Connor, the 10th ever New Zealander to compete in The Boat Race, going for the 159th time. The 25-year-old never thought it possible for a kid from Christchurch to contest such a famous race.

“It wasn’t really on my radar until I went to Harvard and knew people in it,” he says of the traditional crossover US Ivy Leaguers make to their UK equivalent.

“Since I’ve been here, I understand how big it is, doing the weigh-in with a big media presence and photographers snapping away,” the 2006 world junior champion says.


Kiwi Sam O'Connor rows for Oxford

Hardly a toff, as is the clichéd image of Russell Group college rowers, O’Connor drove trucks and forklifts before he took up top level study. He’s even lucky to be here, after he was hit by a car while cycling, putting him out of rowing for a year.

A couple of years on, though, and he’s raring for the big race. Asked why it’s so special, he says originality and history. “It’s different from any other regatta – it’s head-to-head, win or lose, no second chances.”

While the banks of the Thames along the 6.8km course will be packed, a slightly newer English institution, The Goat Race, will enter into its fifth year of general lunacy at Spitalfields City Farm. Co-founder Anthony Goh (so close!) admits it started as a silly conversation at the pub, but has gone on to become a sell-out event.


Cambridge celebrate last year's win

Punters can expect a ‘pogoat’ race and a freestyle ‘gotocross’ comp alongside the main race, plus live bands, DJs, and food and booze from the likes of Meantime and Tongue ‘n’ Cheek (the latter being a street food outfit serving “more sustainable meat cuts” – see the name).

“The Goat Race is less likely to be sabotaged,” reasons Goh when we ask why folks should plump for this over the rowing, referencing last year when Aussie Trenton Oldfield jumped in the river and stopped The Boat Race.

“It’s a different crowd; it’s more inclusive. But really it comes down to whether you prefer men in boats or goats.”


Spitalfields City Farm

Cambridge has won every Goat Race so far, but Oxford has a fresh chance this year thanks to a change in crew. First-year winner Barney has been brought back for Cambridge and will go head-to-head with a new athlete, fellow pygmy goat Edith, racing for Oxford.

“Pygmy goats are much faster, so this is going to be a more unpredictable race,” Goh promises.The race raises funds for the farm, hidden behind Brick Lane in east London. “It’s a great community project,” says Goh.

“And a chance to see what happens when a pun gets totally out of control.”And there’s no need to limit having lots of jolly good fun to Easter Sunday, there’s four days – Friday to Monday – to fill with fun times.

Here’s our ultimate list of oh-so British things to see and do in London. Pip pip, cheerio!      


More best of British

The Boat Race. March 31.
Putney to Mortlake. 4.30pm.  
theboatrace.org 

The Goat Race.
March 31. Doors 1pm, race 4.30pm. £5.  
Buxton Street, E1 5AR  
Station | Shoreditch High Street  
thegoatrace.org 
 

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The Goat vs Boat Race, and more of the best British things to see and do in London
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