The first steps to easing lockdown and getting back out on the water are underway, with outdoor sports now allowed – albeit under strict rules, and without spectators. But in the year after the cancellation of perhaps the best-known British rowing event – the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race – it’s all looking good for a season of regattas to come. We’ve got a few great facts about the Boat Race (which is actually made up of four races these days - who would have known?) and some of the key rowing events in the calendar...
The Boat Race is On…
The Boat Race itself – which was first held an amazing 192 years ago, in 1829 – looks set to go ahead on Easter Sunday, 4 April, although not in the usual Thames setting. Because of safety issues at Hammersmith Bridge, and to reduce the risk of crowds gathering to watch, the events are taking place this year on the Great Ouse at Ely, in Cambridgeshire. This is the first time the races have moved location since a regular Thames course was agreed in 1839, and other than last year due to COVID, the only other times they've been cancelled was during the First and Second World Wars.
The Women’s Race took to the water for the first time in 1927, but has only enjoyed equal prominence, sponsorship and facilities within the last decade – for many years, it was held on a different day, and in a variety of different locations. Nowadays, the Men’s and Women’s races are held on the same day, at the same location, with the same standard of training and facilities available – and both fall under the collective name “The Boat Race”.
Over the years the Boat Race has been no stranger to drama. All races were officially put on hold over the Second World War, but unofficial races still took place in locations away from the dangers of London – including down the Great Ouse, and this year's race starts at the 1944 finishing point. There have been numerous sinkings and collisions: the Men’s race hadn’t even started in 1984 when the Cambridge boat collided with a barge, and in 1912, very poor weather and high winds sent both crews’ boats underwater.
The prestige, renown and competitive spirit of the race regularly attracts some famous crew members, and Olympians can often be seen in the line-up: four-time Olympic gold medallist Sir Matthew Pinsent rowed for Oxford in 1990, 1991, and 1993, and the last race in 2019 saw double Olympic champion James Cracknell rowing as part of the winning boat, Cambridge. A couple of other famous alumni have appeared over the years, including actor Hugh Laurie (Cambridge 1980), and historian and TV presenter Dan Snow (Oxford 1999, 2000, 2001).
The results totals to date: for the Women’s event, Cambridge have 44 wins to Oxford’s 30; for the Men’s event, Cambridge are ahead with 84 wins to Oxford’s 80 – with one dead heat in 1877. There’s always plenty of tension and excitement, and to say we’re delighted and excited that it’s back on the water this year would be an understatement.
Which team will you be supporting this year?
The Boat Race will be broadcast on BBC1 from 3pm on Sunday, and fans are asked to watch the events on TV – spectators will not be allowed at the race itself. More information on this event and the history of the race can be found on the official website: https://www.theboatrace.org/
The Boat Race is not the only event to look forward to this year – here’s what else is coming up over the 2021 season (of course, subject to the most up to date COVID restrictions and events still being allowed to take place).
Tokyo 2021 Olympics – Qualification Rounds
The build-up to the biggest event of the year begins this month, with the dates for qualifications for both the long awaited Olympics and Paralympics just confirmed by the World Rowing Executive:
the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta will be from 15-17 May in Lucerne, SUI
the World Rowing Cup II regatta will be from 21-23 May in Lucerne, SUI
the Final Paralympic Qualification Regatta from 3-5 June in Gavirate, ITA, including international classification opportunities (in connection with the Gavirate International Para Rowing Regatta from 4-6 June).
Then it’s two months of full-on training and acclimatising all the way to Tokyo, rescheduled from last summer to this. The Olympic Games themselves are scheduled to take place between 23 July and 8 August, and the Paralympics will then begin just over 2 weeks later on the 24 August – 5 September. Visit the official website for the most up-to-date information: https://www.olympic.org/rowing
Other World Rowing Events
All of the usual World Rowing events should, with a fair wind and everything crossed, be taking place as planned this year. Here’s what they’ve published to date:
World Rowing Cup I (Zagreb, CRO) – 30 April-2 May
World Rowing Cup II (Lucerne, SUI) – 21-23 May
World Rowing Cup III (Sabaudia, ITA*) – 4-6 June
World Rowing Under 23 Championships (Racice, CZE) – 7-11 July
World Rowing Junior Championships (Plovdiv, BUL) – 11-15 August
World Rowing Masters Regatta (Linz-Ottensheim, AUT) – 1-5 September
World Rowing Beach Sprint Finals (Oeiras, POR) – 24-26 September
World Rowing Coastal Championships (Oeiras, POR) – 30 September-2 October
World Rowing Championships (Shanghai, CHN) – 17-24 October
Keep checking the official World Rowing website for the latest: https://worldrowing.com/2020/06/24/world-rowing-announces-revised-2021-regatta-season/
There’s a welcome return for our rowing events in the UK, too – click the logo below to see the full list and updates directly from the British Rowing Events Calendar.
Please remember that spectators are only permitted when COVID restrictions on gatherings lift, and you should always check nearer the time to find out whether an event is going ahead. The British Rowing website is a great place to find out more: www.britishrowing.org
Please also check out the British Rowing website if you would like to find out more about rowing and getting involved in such a great sport. On the website you’ll find lots of up to date information on learning to row and improving your rowing skills. You can also find your local club, and discover the best ways to get started with your brand new hobby!