We’re all familiar with the long-running Oxford v Cambridge boat race but I was keen to find out whether there were any other interesting traditional university races around.
I happened on this particular activity at Carnegie Mellon University. The annual ‘Buggy’ or ‘Sweepstakes’ race event is a tradition which has been going for over a century and only paused because of World War II and in 2020 due to the pandemic. But it is now back and, as this story notes, it really is an intense activity for the university’s students:
This annual student-led relay race, officially known as “Sweepstakes,” partners designers, engineers, mechanics and athletes. Together, these brilliant, quirky, creative minds produce a buggy — an aerodynamic vehicle with no engine. It’s powered by brains and brawn alone.
In just over two minutes, teams of power-pushing men and women race around a .84 mile track with buggy and driver leading the way around Schenley Park’s Flagstaff Hill, with speeds up to 40 mph.
Every April during Spring Carnival, students, alumni and community fans watch Buggy teams compete for the annual title.
I really do like the look of this and the history of the races shows how buggy design has evolved over the past 100 years to the sleek aerodynamic vehicles they have today.
Less stylish perhaps and a slightly more recent tradition stretching back only around half a century are the Lehigh bed races. These were clearly a health and safety nightmare in the past but are now looking a more secure proposition as this story notes.
And deep in the history of the University of Nottingham there used to be a ‘beer race’ involving teams pushing one of their number around campus on a trolley of sorts and an awful lot of drinking. Probably for the best that this kind of thing doesn’t happen any more…