The first ever race saw both teams starting in Dover and reaching France within 2 minutes of each other. According to the rules of the competition, the race was declared a draw. Since then, Oxford and Cambridge have met 9 more times in the Channel. The most recent race in 2016 we saw Oxford steal the victory. 

We wait in suspense to see what will happen this year, at the 11th Varsity Relay Channel Swim, taking place from 27th June – 1st July 2018. 

If you are interested in being a part of the Cambridge Channel Relay team for 2018, please email Rebecca Hughes or Matthew Chadwick, the Open Water Swimming Captains, at rah202@cam.ac.uk / machad27@bas.ac.uk

The Swim

This biannual event is a Relay Race between teams from Cambridge and Oxford University, from Dover to France. The race is swum by a team of six people from each university, consisting of three men and three women. They swim in one hour stints until they have crossed the channel. Due to variation in coastline of France and sea currents, any difference in time under two minutes is counted as a draw. The next race will be in July 2018.

As in all official Channel swims, no wetsuits are allowed, and water temperature is often above 16 degrees C. Each team crosses the channel along the current swimmer in a piloted boat, and after an hour the next swimmer enters the water, with each team member swimming once or more, until the French coast is reached.

Training for this event involves physical training for fitness and cold resistance, and mental training for will-power and team support. It is very exciting and a lot of fun for both the team, and friends and relatives of those swimming, who can follow the boat via a GPS tracker online, and twitter updates.

The 2016 Event

The Channel Swim team consisting of Matthew Chadwick, Callum Chivers, Dan Brackenbury, Jessica Mason, Rebecca Hughes and Laura Shubert completed the crossing in 9 hours, 28 minutes, just behind Oxford who took the victory.  Unfortunately the time gap was not enough to declare a win for Cambridge, resulting in a draw; however, after the team had to pull out in 2012, this is a fantastic feat for Cambridge open-water swimming.


The Cross Channel Relay Competition was founded in 1998 by Nick Thomas and Martin Davies and has been running biannually ever since. The inaugural Varsity Channel Relay Race between Oxford and Cambridge Universities in 1998 was a tremendous success. This event, the only university swimming race across the Channel, generated publicity worldwide as well as within both universities. Amongst others, the race was featured twice in The Times, in The Daily Telegraph, on numerous local Television stations and internationally on Australian National Radio. Over 100,000 alumni were informed through both Universities’ alumni publications. In addition, extensive features ran in both Universities’ student media and in the Swimming Times, a national swimming publication.


Cambridge 3
Oxford 5
Draw 2

YearWinnerCambridge TimeOxford time
2016Oxford9hrs 28 mins8hrs 56 mins
2014Draw9hrs9hrs 2mins
2012OxfordDNF8hrs 45mins
2010Cambridge8hrs 51mins9hrs 3mins
2008Oxford10hrs 20 mins10 hrs
2006Cambridge10hrs 22mins10 hrs 48mins
2004Cambridge8hrs 49 mins9hrs 13mins
2002Oxford9 hrs 19 mins9 hrs 07 mins
2000Oxford8hrs 25 mins8 hrs 18 mins
1998Draw9hrs 24 mins9hrs 24