22 July 2016
Max Hall, of the company Tideway in London, gives HTBS a brief report of this year’s Doggett’s Coat and Bage Race, which was rowed on Wednesday, 20 July. Hall writes:
Victory in this year’s historic Doggett’s Coat and Badge Race crowned three years of hard work for favourite Benjamin Folkard.
The Fulham Reach Rowing Club member led from the off in the latest outing of the 301-year-old race, which sees a clutch of young members of the company of Watermen and Lightermen row down the Thames from London Bridge to Cadogan Pier in Chelsea.
The original rules of the race, laid down by Irish actor Thomas Doggett in 1715, stipulated only watermen “in the first year of their Freedom of the Watermen’s Company” be permitted to enter but that stipulation was loosened in the 1980s, due to a lack of eligible entrants, with rowers permitted three attempts at the race and Folkard –one of three Londoners in the race – took full advantage in his final outing.
‘In my first year I came fourth because I didn’t know how to row the race’, said Folkard as he was handed the winner’s Champagne. ‘I was back in training from the next day onwards.
‘Last year I trained really hard but Louis [Pettipher, last year’s winner] was so fit. Today was the product of three years’ hard work.’
Folkard led from the start after the HMS Belfast counted down to the race with a deafening salute, the Putney rower’s light blue colours tearing away from the mid-blue of Alfie Anderson and rivals Jacob Berry, Perry Flynn and George McCarthy.
Poplar Blackwall and District RC rower Anderson stayed on Folkard’s heels as the others dropped away in the punishing race in which participants have to contend with treacherous cross-currents on the flow tide throughout the four-mile, five-furlong race.
Folkard hugged the banks away from the central channel along the South Bank, reaping the rewards of his preparations and previous experience in the event.
‘I gave myself checkpoints where I knew to turn around’, explained Folkard, ‘it’s a long course so you can’t keep turning round constantly [to see where you are]. I knew as soon as I saw the National Theatre at Waterloo that I had to come in towards the moorings. It’s much smoother water than in the middle of the river and I was cutting out the angle of the bends.’
Second-placed Anderson, from Hammersmith, revealed after the race he had been suffering from flu but said his rival was a deserved winner.
‘He had a good comfortable margin’, said Anderson, ‘he deserved it because he’s been training longer than me this season. He put the work in and it paid off.’
Folkard revealed his granddad Trevor had been his inspiration, adding: ‘My granddad was my master and when I first got apprenticed he loved the idea of the Doggett’s Coat and Badge Race and he really wanted me to take part in it. Today was my thank you to him.’
The race was sponsored by Tideway, the company responsible for implementing the £4.2bn Thames Tideway Tunnel to clean up the River Thames and reconnect London and Londoners with their river.
HTBS’s Tim Koch will soon give a longer report of the Doggett’s.
Update 6 August – Editor’s note: This article by Max Hall was arranged by Clive Radley, who happened to ride in the launch with Hall during the race.