Paul Bircher

Olympic rower Paul Bircher (m. 1947) came up to Christ’s in 1947 to read Engineering and was picked for the Light Blues’ boat for the 1948 Boat Race. Although Bircher caught a crab early in the race, Cambridge came from behind to beat Oxford, setting a course record that would stand until 1974. That winning crew, including Bircher, was chosen to represent Great Britain at the 1948 Olympics (despite suffering a defeat in their first heat while rowing as Leander in the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley in the time between the Boat Race and the Olympics). The British boat took the silver medal, finishing second to the United States.

Bircher returned to the Boat Race in 1949, this time as President of the Cambridge University Boat Club (CUBC). Cambridge once again won, although their margin of victory—only a quarter of a length—was the narrowest since the 1877 Race. The Cambridge victory was much more decisive in 1950, when the crew beat Oxford by three-and-a-half lengths (while being coxed by Antony Armstrong-Jones, Princess Margaret’s future husband).


Bircher continued rowing after leaving Cambridge and in 1953 he was a member of the Leander VIII which won the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley. In 2012, he was a torch bearer for the London Olympics.