The 166th boat race was planned for late MarchROBERT TREHARNE JONES/ GEOGRAPH

The annual Oxford-Cambridge boat race has been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Boat Race Company announced today. This makes 2020 the first time in 75 years that the men’s rowing competition will not take place, and the first year since its inception that the women’s race will not occur.

The boat race, which is broadcasted by the BBC and attended each year by thousands of spectators, would violate new COVID-19 guidance by the UK government which will no longer support large public gatherings with over 50 people.

The new policy aims to reduce the spread of transmission of the coronavirus, as part of a broader strategy of ‘social distancing’, which has been recommended by the WHO, as well as many European governments. Johnson also said today that everyone should stop all non-essential travel and any non-essential contact with others, work from home as much as possible, avoid pubs and other communal gatherings.

The Prime Minister told the country that it appears that the UK is approaching the ‘fast growth’ phase of the curve for infection rates of coronavirus, where cases are expected to double every five days.

Robert Gillespie, Chairman of The Boat Race Company Limited, commented on social media: “Given the unprecedented situation our country and each of us as individuals faces, the public good far outweighs all other considerations. Cancellation of The Boat Race is therefore clearly the correct decision, but it is not without sad consequence. Our thoughts are very much with the athletes who have worked so hard and made immense sacrifices to represent their University and are now unable to do so.

To cancel is not an easy decision and we realise this news will undoubtedly disappoint all those who look forward to the Race each year – whether watching on the riverbanks, on TV or online.

We would like to thank our partners, fans, the local businesses and community for their continued support.”

In an email to students today, Pro-vice-chancellor for Education Graham Virgo said that the University was restricting any large gathering to be no more than 50 people.

Keep up with the COVID-19 situation in Cambridge with our live coverage.

It is not yet confirmed that this government ban will extend until mid-June and affect Cambridge’s slew of May Week events, as well as graduation ceremonies which take place in the last week of June.