Doggett’s 2016, Part I: Ben joins the Band of Brothers
22 July 2016
Tim Koch presents the first of several reports related to the historic race for newly qualified Thames Watermen:
In my preview of the 302nd Doggett’s race, I wrote that Alfie Anderson ‘may be the man to beat’. I do not know if Ben Folkard read that – but beat him he did. Despite the pressure of racing in his third (and therefore final) attempt, Folkard was physically and tactically well prepared to take on the bigger and more experienced Anderson – plus anyone else who would challenge him for the ownership of a coveted scarlet coat and silver badge and the lifelong honour of being a Doggett’s winner.
The three notables in the umpire’s launch were Robert ‘Bobby’ Prentice, Major-General Colin Boag and Sir Steve Redgrave. As the Bargemaster of the Fishmongers’ Company, Robert is the race umpire. He won Doggett’s in 1973 and still holds the course record of 23 minutes 22 seconds. In 1976, Robert, together with Martin Spencer (Doggett’s 1970), won the Double Sculls at Henley Royal Regatta, the first Watermen to do so. He has even had a couple of goes at rowing the Atlantic. Major-General Boag is the Clerk of the Fishmongers’ Company, a role that does not involve so much sitting on a high stool with a quill as being the Chief Executive Officer with a staff of forty. No doubt this very model of a modern Major-General is also very well acquainted with matters mathematical and can understand equations, both the simple and quadratical…… This year’s guest of honour, Steve Redgrave, as I think HTBS readers will know, is Britain’s most successful oarsman and is currently Chairman of Henley Royal Regatta.
Approaching the bridges at Blackfriars, there was a strong headwind and the water started to become very rough. Because of this, we can see in the above picture that Folkard has decided move out of the centre of the river and pass to his left the string of moored barges that stretch the 850 metres from Blackfriars to Waterloo Bridge. Hugging the south bank at Coin Street is a classic Doggett’s move under these conditions and Folkard later said that this was a pre-planned manoeuvre.
In part two, some post-race pictures and a little post-race analysis.
Wonderful entertainment-excellent race
Hi Tim. Great article. But why was Ben Folkard allowed to race for a third time? I thought Doggett wanted the race to be between young watermen in their first year of freedom from their apprenticeship. Do you know when the rule changed?
In part two of my report, which went up after you posted your question, I wrote:
In 1988, the declining number of new Watermen made it necessary to allow unsuccessful prior competitors to row in their second and third years of freedom, not just their first, in order to keep the number of entries credible. I think that most people concerned would agree that the change has only been good for the event and that some very worthy Doggett’s Men have come through on their second or third attempt – with year’s winner a good example.
I should have added that there is a maximum age of 26 on the day of the race.