Winklevoss twins' crypto company to sponsor Oxford and Cambridge boat race

Oscar Williams-Grut
·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·4 min read
Cambridge University Boat Club rowers celebrate victory over Oxford University Boat Club in London on 7 April 2019. Photo: Alberto Pezzali/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Cambridge University Boat Club rowers celebrate victory over Oxford University Boat Club in London on 7 April 2019. Photo: Alberto Pezzali/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Gemini, the cryptocurrency company founded by billionaire entrepreneurs the Winklevoss twins, has been announced as the new sponsor of one of Britain's most iconic sporting rivalries — the annual Oxford v Cambridge boat race.

The Boat Race Company Limited (BRCL) said on Tuesday that Gemini would be the principal partner for the event, which will take place 4 April and be broadcast live on the BBC. The 166th Men's Race and the 75th Women's Race will be held in Ely due to COVID-19 restrictions, marking the first time the event has been held outside of London since 1944.

The Boat Race is one of the oldest and most iconic sporting rivalries in Britain. The event has been held annually since 1829 but was cancelled last year due to COVID-19. Millions watch the competition live on TV each year.

Watch: What is bitcoin?

While the event has a history of being sponsored by financial and professional services companies, Gemini's patronage marks a departure from the more traditional businesses that have backed the race.

Gemini is a cryptocurrency exchange that lets people buy, sell and hold cryptos like bitcoin (BTC-USD). The New York-headquartered company was founded by billionaire twins Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss in 2010.

Robert Gillespie, chairman of the Boat Race Company, said he was "delighted to welcome Gemini as the Principal Partner of the Boat Race".

Tyler Winklevoss, left, and Cameron Winklevoss, founders of Gemini, appear on the 'Countdown to the Closing Bell with Liz Claman' on the Fox Business Network, in New York, US. Photo: Richard Drew/AP
Tyler Winklevoss, left, and Cameron Winklevoss, founders of Gemini, appear on the 'Countdown to the Closing Bell with Liz Claman' on the Fox Business Network, in New York, US. Photo: Richard Drew/AP

The Winklevoss brothers first came to public attention for their role in the creation of Facebook. The twins were at Harvard with Mark Zuckerberg and claimed he stole their idea. The parties ultimately reached a multi-million dollar settlement. The spat was memorialised in the Oscar-winning 2010 film The Social Network, in which Armie Hammer played the twins.

The Winklevoss twins were keen rowers at Harvard and then Oxford. The pair rowed for Oxford in the 2010 boat race against Cambridge and the brothers represented the United States at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

“Our experience in rowing taught us that whether you are building yourself as an athlete or building a startup, the power of big dreams together with conviction and perseverance cannot be underestimated," Cameron Winklevoss, Gemini's president, said in a statement.

Armie Hammer played the Winklevoss twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss in 2010's The Social Network which earned him much attention from Hollywood.
Armie Hammer played the Winklevoss twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss in 2010's film The Social Network. Photo: Sony

Alongside sponsoring the race, Gemini will fund a new £75,000 bursary to provide underprivileged children with rowing lessons through the Fulham Reach Boat Club.

"We are excited to support this historic event to go ahead safely and widen access to the sport through The Gemini Boat Race Bursary Scheme," Cameron Winklevoss said. "Our hope for the Bursary Scheme is to enable more young people to explore the skills that rowing develops in and outside of the boat, including focus, confidence and teamwork.”

After rowing, the Winklevoss brothers pivoted to a career in financial technology and cryptocurrency. The pair used part of their Facebook settlement to buy $11m worth of bitcoin in 2013. A surge in the price of bitcoin since then has helped turn the pair into billionaires.

"Rowing was our first foray into entrepreneurship, inspiring us to create the varsity rowing team at our high school," the pair said in a blog post. "This potent combination led us to row at Harvard, Oxford, the Olympics, and ultimately start Gemini, which today has over 350 employees worldwide."

USA's Cameron Winklevoss, left, and twin brother Tyler take the start of their Men's pair repechage at the Beijing 2008 Olympics in Beijing, on 11 August 2008. Photo: Gregory Bull/AP
USA's Cameron Winklevoss, left, and twin brother Tyler take the start of their Men's pair repechage at the Beijing 2008 Olympics in Beijing, on 11 August 2008. Photo: Gregory Bull/AP

Gemini launched in the UK last year. Blair Halliday, Gemini's UK head, said sponsorship of the Oxford vs. Cambridge Boat Race would "bring Gemini’s retail and institutional cryptocurrency services to new audiences."

Financial terms of the sponsorship weren't disclosed and a spokesperson declined to comment on them.

Watch: What are the risks of investing in cryptocurrency?