The 111th Varsity fencing Match between Oxford and Cambridge will be held on Saturday 10th March 2018 at the Examination Schools, Oxford.
The first two matches will begin simultaneously at 10am and feature the Women's Blues and Men's Seconds teams. Following this at 1:15pm will be the Men's Blues and Women's Seconds.
Each match is an exciting showcase featuring 12 fencers from each university fighting up to 135 hits in a relay system for a coveted trophey and bragging rights. As in previous years the Varsity Match will be held in the Examination Schools in Oxford, a beautiful 19th century Grade II listed building. The hall provides the perfect setting for the matches, giving a scenic backdrop whilst also offering spectators the chance to view two matches simultaneously in the same hall. Further, there will be large multimedia screens to provide additional information for spectators.
For the fifth year the match will be streamed live on the internet. Further details will be announced before the event.
Please contact the organising President Céline Brendler-Spaeth (St. John’s College) with any questions or queries via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The first varsity match was held in 1897, with foil only for the first two years, a sabre match being instituted in 1899. At this time, the Cambridge club was a combined boxing and fencing club, and it was presumably to facilitate the organisation of the varsity match that the Oxford fencing club joined up with the boxing club. Fencing was clearly secondary in this arrangement, however. In the varsity match, there were only two foil bouts and one sabre bout, compared to a large number of different boxing weights. In the copies of the club rules that survive, regulations refer to rounds and weights, but not bouts or weapons. In the executive, there was never more than a couple of fencing names out of seven committee members. In 1913, the divorce between the boxing and fencing clubs was made complete. The varsity fencing match was held separately and was moved to a fencing salle in London, though it was still held in early March. The number of fencers was increased, to three foilists and two sabreurs. It was to stay that way until 1947. A poster survives advertising the 1914 varsity match. It was held at Tassart’s Salle D’Armes, Oxford Circus, London. Tickets were 2/6, obtainable from the club secretaries.
The first post-war varsity match was held in 1920, but the Oxford club did not really get active again until 1921. In 1924, a joint committee of Oxford and Cambridge Fencing Blues established the National Public School Championships in foil. Sabre and epée competitions were added later. In 1930, the Oxford Fencing Club presented a shield to the university fencing clubs of Oxford and Cambridge to be held annually by the winners of the foil sabre and epée matches. The epée was still held outdoors in the summer (the electric epée was developed in the 1930′s and adopted by the FIE in 1933, but had not yet made its way to Oxford) and was not considered part of the varsity match. Cambridge did not award a Half Blue for the epée match until 1947; thus the winner of the shield was not necessarily the winner of the varsity match. In 1932 and 1933, Oxford held the shield, while Cambridge won the varsity match. This happened again in 1936, while in 1939 the situation was reversed, and Cambridge won the shield while losing the Blues match. In 1926, the Crown Prince of Norway, later to become King Olaf V, fenced for Oxford and became a Half Blue. He fenced sabre, won one match and lost one match. The varsity match was still fenced according to the same format, with the epée match out-of-doors in the summer. When in Oxford, it was held in St. John’s gardens. In 1947, the sabre teams were increased to three-a-side, and Cambridge finally awarded a Half Blue for the epée. In 1951, all the matches were held together in March, with four-a-side teams, and in 1952 the present format was finally established, with three-a-side teams fencing on the same day. In 1966 the fencing club’s decade and a half of peregrinations finally came to an end, as the university included a fencing salle in the newly built Iffley Road sports building. It is too bad they made it just slightly too short to hold an electric piste! This salle remained the club’s home until 1996. The varsity matches seem to have been fenced here in alternate years, until 1971, after which the Blues and Assassins matches were held at Crystal Palace as part of a day of Varsity matches in “minor” sports for a decade, before reverting back to Oxford and Cambridge in the 1980′s. The match currently takes place in the respective Examination Schools of the two universities, but has taken places in other locations, including the Oxford Union Debating Chamber. The first varsity match for women was in 1957, which suggests that a women’s team only really got organised after 1945. Right up to 1980, when the clubs merged, the women had a separate club organisation, though a Blue from the seventies remembers that they fenced with the men. The time of the Assassins vs. Cambridge Cutthroats contest has varied over the years, sometimes being at the same time, sometimes at a different time than the Blues. In 1989-90, the assassins match was moved back to the same day as the Blues, which makes for an exciting atmosphere. [Abridged by Edmund Wareham from Dylan Reid, ‘History’, http://oufencing.co.uk/about/history/, (5/11/13).]