The Championship Course
along which, for the first time in the history of the event, the men's, women's and reserves' races were conducted.
The Boat Race is a side-by-side rowing competition between the University of Oxford (sometimes referred to as the "Dark Blues") and the University of Cambridge (sometimes referred to as the "Light Blues"). First held in 1829, the race takes place on the 4.2-mile (6.8 km) Championship Course, between Putney and Mortlake on the River Thames in south-west London. The rivalry is a major point of honour between the two universities; it is followed throughout the United Kingdom and broadcast worldwide. Oxford went into the race as champions, having won the 2014 race by a margin of eleven lengths, but Cambridge led overall with 81 victories to Oxford's 78 (excluding the "dead heat to Oxford by five feet" of 1877).
It was the first time in the history of The Boat Race that the three main races, the men's, women's and men's reserves', were held on the same day and on the same course along the Tideway. Prior to this year, the women's race which first took place in 1927, was usually held at the Henley Boat Races along the 2,000-metre (2,200 yd) course. However, on at least two occasions in the interwar period, the women competed on the Thames between Chiswick and Kew. Oxford went into the race as reigning champions, having won the 2014 race by four lengths, with Cambridge leading 41–28 overall. For the third year, the men's race was sponsored by BNY Mellon while the women's race saw BNY Mellon's subsidiary Newton Investment Management as sponsors. It was part of the sponsorship deal with Newton Investment Management that mandated the women's race to be rowed on the same course and with the same funding as the men's race. According to their chief executive, Helena Morrissey, the company "didn't just want a name on a shirt; [it] wanted to do something meaningful". The women's race was scheduled to take place at 4:50 pm, the men's reserves' race half an hour later and the men's race a further half-hour after that at 5:50 pm. The women's reserve race between Cambridge's Blondie and Oxford's Osiris took place on the Tideway for the first time, one day before the main races, at 4:05 pm.
Boris Rankov, umpire of the men's race
The television historian and former Oxford rower Dan Snow (who represented the Dark Blues in the 1999, 2000 and 2001 races) said: "Most televised sport is a carnival of misogyny so it is great news that the Boat Race is leading the way in ensuring that women take their rightful place alongside men." The BBC sports broadcaster Eleanor Oldroyd suggested that scheduling the races on the same course and day was "a game-changing move" for female sport, and "now they've achieved equality – same course, same distance, same prize money [sic], same BBC TV coverage, to an expected global audience of 100 million". The television presenter Clare Balding opted to cover the women's race instead of the 2015 Grand National, claiming that the combined rowing event would have a "ripple effect all across society, business and sport".
The autumn reception was held at the London headquarters of BNY Mellon. As Oxford had won the previous year's race, it was Cambridge's responsibility to offer the traditional challenge to the Dark Blues. To that end, Alexander Leichter and Caroline Reid, presidents of the Cambridge boat clubs, challenged Constantine Louloudis and Anastasia Chitty, their counterparts, who duly accepted. Umpires for the senior races were announced on 4 March: the former Cambridge rower Simon Harris, who represented the Light Blues in the 1982 and 1983 races oversaw the Women's race, while the six-time Oxford Blue Boris Rankov umpired the men's race for the fourth time. Rob Clegg, the umpire of the 2011 race oversaw the men's reserve race while the Olympic bronze medallist Sarah Winckless umpired the women's reserve race.