STAGING Sibling rivalry - British Rowing

Sibling rivalry

Blood Over WaterOn a blustery, overcast April day in 2003, David and James Livingston raced against each other in the 149th Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race, watched by over 8 million people. It was the first time brothers had battled each other in this gladiatorial and quintessentially British tradition for over 100 years. Only one could be victorious.

At the Windsor Festival on 26th September over 80 people attended a successful talk held by the brothers which brilliantly covered their rivalry, the 2003 Boat Race, their book entitled Blood Over Water and their reconciliation.


In the book, David and James tell their stories giving a locker-room insight into one of the least understood national sporting occasions, normally on view for only one day a year. James, following in his family’s footsteps, is a student at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge. In 2002, after a last minute change of heart, David joins Christ Church College at Oxford University, Cambridge’s ancient rival. The book exposes the ancient, great and secretive institutions of Oxford and Cambridge and reveals a training load almost beyond endurance. Told in alternating narratives, Blood over Water is an emotional and searching joint self-portrait, and an account of a brotherly relationship tested to breaking point, with David and James unable even to speak to each other in the final months before the 2003 Boat Race. It is only later, with James battling not to fail his final Cambridge exams, having dedicated so much time to rowing, that they start to reconcile their torn relationship, damaged by their pursuit of a shared dream. Blood over Water asks what you would be willing to sacrifice to achieve your dreams.

As told by Pete Reed, Olympic Champion 2008,

‘Blood Over Water is a wonderful insight into the brutal lives of the 2003 Blues rowers. Two universities; two crews and two brothers giving everything, in preparation for and in execution of the greatest boat race of all time. There are twists and turns in both camps as you learn about brotherhood and what they are prepared to do for and to each other. It is staggering to read about what these physically and mentally monstorous wre prepared to do, to win.’

To find out more or to purchase the book you can visit the website