Blood Over Water: the Boat Race 2003
James Livingston (St Catharine’s 1999)
James Livingston’s most memorable race – and that of many fans of the sport – is the 2003 Boat Race. He and his brother David competed as members of the opposing Cambridge and Oxford teams in a highly publicised rivalry, and James’s team lost by one foot. It was the closest Boat Race of all time.
“You have to lose all sense of perspective to win the Boat Race, and David just became the enemy that we had learned to hate. It wasn’t very healthy,” says James. The brothers later wrote a highly acclaimed book together about their experiences, Blood over Water, describing how their relationship was tested almost to breaking point. “I’m glad we wrote the book,” he says. “It helped us to understand each other and move on.”
It all began when, inspired by the Olympic rowing golds of two brothers from his school, Hampton, James leapt at the chance to try out the sport for himself. “I was terrible at football, and too wet for rugby. To my surprise, after a year or two at rowing I turned out to be quite good.”
The discovery has seen James compete in events across the world. He notched up wins including two golds in the European Junior Championships in 1997 and 1998, and the Britannia Cup in the 2000 Henley Royal Regatta. He won silver at the World Championships in 2003 and was a member of Team GB in Athens 2004 as the men’s reserve. “My most important piece of kit is my lucky pair of Hampton School socks, reminding me of where I started.”
In his years at Cambridge prior to the 2003 race, he rowed in the Boat Race in 2002, losing by two seconds after a member of the crew collapsed. Prior to that, he was in the Boat Race reserve crew, Goldie, losing in 2000 and winning in 2001 against Oxford’s rival Isis crew. Of winning he says: “It’s the best drug in the world. At that moment you have no worries, concerns or thoughts – it’s just pure ecstasy.”