The Queen Mother Challenge Cup for championship eights is the regatta's premier event, featuring the best eights from the top rowing schools and clubs in the country. The event attracts approximately 12 entries each year, with smaller clubs usually entering the Child Beale Cup for School eights. Due to the high level of competition, the Queen Mother Challenge Cup has only been won by seven schools and one club:
Eton College (14 wins), Hampton School (6 wins), Radley College (5 wins), Shrewsbury School (3 wins), St. Edwards School (3 wins), Abingdon School (2 wins), Pangbourne College (1 win), Wallingford Schools Boat Club (1 win)
After three 1st VIIIs, entered in the Childe Beale Cup, from The King's School, Canterbury, Bedford Modern School, and Shiplake College, swamped, it was decided by the officials to completely cancel the rest of the racing for both the Saturday and Sunday. The officials have been heavily criticised for not reacting quickly to the situation, and for not stopping racing earlier, instead placing some of the athletes in serious danger - an eight from Oratory School ploughed straight into the swamped crew from The King's School, Canterbury, hitting some with blades and damaging their boat, moments later the Kingston Grammar School eight narrowly avoided hitting the Bedford Modern School eight, a black resolute which was very difficult to see in the wavey conditions.