Doggett’s 2016, Part I: Ben joins the Band of Brothers

 On 20 July 2016, Ben Folkard (left) became the 302nd winner of the Doggett’s Coat and Badge Wager with a time of 26 minutes 53 seconds. Here, he is congratulated by Louis Pettipher, the 2015 winner.
On 20 July 2016, Ben Folkard (left) became the 302nd winner of the Doggett’s Coat and Badge Wager with a time of 26 minutes 53 seconds. Here, he is congratulated by Louis Pettipher, the 2015 winner.

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 official pre-race picture. Wearing his ‘Coat and Badge’, Louis Pettipher presents the 2016 competitors. The final results were, from left to right: Ben Folkard (1st), Perry Flynn (4th), Jake Berry (3rd), George McCarthy (5th), Alfie Anderson (2nd).
The official pre-race picture. Wearing his ‘Coat and Badge’, Louis Pettipher presents the 2016 competitors. The final results were, from left to right: Ben Folkard (1st), Perry Flynn (4th), Jake Berry (3rd), George McCarthy (5th), Alfie Anderson (2nd).
In the relative privacy of the little courtyard next to Fishmongers’ Hall, the scullers prepare themselves and their boats for the Wager. In any other race, the competitors would ignore each other while they mentally got ‘into the zone’ – but not here. The boys mixed together quietly until they went afloat, their friendship suspended only for the duration of the race.
In the relative privacy of the little courtyard next to Fishmongers’ Hall, the scullers prepare themselves and their boats for the Wager. In any other race, the competitors would ignore each other while they mentally got ‘into the zone’ – but not here. The boys mixed together quietly until they went afloat, their friendship suspended only for the duration of the race.
On the umpire’s launch, Bobby Prentice, Colin Boag and Steve Redgrave.
On the umpire’s launch, Bobby Prentice, Colin Boag and Steve Redgrave.

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.

The umpire’s launch heads to the marshalling area around the permanently moored HMS Belfast, just below Tower Bridge. Robert is in the purple and gold of the Fishmongers’ Bargemaster while the man in Doggett’s scarlet is Robert’s old Henley, National Championships and Home International partner, Martin Spencer.
The umpire’s launch heads to the marshalling area around the permanently moored HMS Belfast, just below Tower Bridge. Robert is in the purple and gold of the Fishmongers’ Bargemaster while the man in Doggett’s scarlet is Robert’s old Henley, National Championships and Home International partner, Martin Spencer.
Berry (Red), McCarthy (Green) and Anderson (Blue) alongside HMS Belfast. Very small boats on a very big river.
Berry (Red), McCarthy (Green) and Anderson (Blue) alongside HMS Belfast. Very small boats on a very big river.
McCarthy has the added pressure of having three pervious winners in the family.
McCarthy has the added pressure of having three previous winners in the family.
Umpire Prentice calls the competitors onto the start.
Umpire Prentice calls the competitors onto the start.
The 302nd Doggett’s Coat and Badge passes under London Bridge and is underway. From left to right (south bank to north bank) is Flynn (Orange), McCarthy (Green), Anderson (Dark Blue), Berry (Red) and Folkard (Light Blue).
The 302nd Doggett’s Coat and Badge passes under London Bridge and is underway. From left to right (south bank to north bank) is Flynn (Orange), McCarthy (Green), Anderson (Dark Blue), Berry (Red) and Folkard (Light Blue).
Unfortunate for them, but fortunate for the photographers, the two scullers on the left, Flynn and McCarthy, rapidly fell back leaving the leading three racing alongside each other in a tight and easy to photograph formation. Here Flynn leads McCarthy as they approach the second bridge on the course, Cannon Street bridge, 250 metres in to the 7,400-metre race.
Unfortunate for them, but fortunate for the photographers, the two scullers on the left, Flynn and McCarthy, rapidly fell back leaving the leading three racing alongside each other in a tight and easy to photograph formation. Here Flynn leads McCarthy as they approach the second bridge on the course, Cannon Street bridge, 250 metres in to the 7,400-metre race.
Passing under Cannon Street Bridge, it is Folkard in the lead, then Anderson, then Berry.
Passing under Cannon Street Bridge, it is Folkard in the lead, then Anderson, then Berry.
The positions remained unchanged passing under Southwark Bridge (400 metres) and the Millennium Foot Bridge (700 metres). Here, the race approaches the bridges of Blackfriars Rail (1,050 metres) and Blackfriars Road (1,150 metres) where the battle of the blues was between the light blue of Folkard and the dark blue of Anderson (though Berry and Flynn kept up their challenge).
The positions remained unchanged passing under Southwark Bridge (400 metres) and the Millennium Foot Bridge (700 metres). Here, the race approaches the bridges of Blackfriars Rail (1,050 metres) and Blackfriars Road (1,150 metres) where the battle of the blues was between the light blue of Folkard and the dark blue of Anderson (though Berry and Flynn kept up their challenge).
At Blackfriars Rail Bridge – this may the point at which the race was won for Folkard.
At Blackfriars Rail Bridge – this may the point at which the race was won for Folkard.

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.

‘Where’s Ben?’ Anderson and Berry (plus the following launches) continued down the centre of the river, the barges on their right, the boys probably initially unaware of Folkard’s move.
‘Where’s Ben?’ Anderson and Berry (plus the following launches) continued down the centre of the river, the barges on their right, the boys probably initially unaware of Folkard’s move.
Between Blackfriars and Waterloo, passing Gabriel’s Wharf and the National Theatre, Folkard kept to the south bank, out of the stream but in relatively calm water and with less of a bend to navigate.
Between Blackfriars and Waterloo, passing Gabriel’s Wharf and the National Theatre, Folkard kept to the south bank, out of the stream but in relatively calm water and with less of a bend to navigate.
Berry demonstrates one of the reasons why Folkard stayed out of the centre.
Berry demonstrates one of the reasons why Folkard stayed out of the centre.
Though far behind the leading three, Flynn also wisely went on the inside at Coin Street.
Though far behind the leading three, Flynn also wisely went on the inside at Coin Street.
After Waterloo Bridge (2,000 metres), Folkard moved back to the centre, by which time he had a comfortable lead of perhaps 15 lengths. Here he approaches the Golden Jubilee and the Hungerford Bridges (2,350 metres), flanked by Anderson on the right and Berry on the left.
After Waterloo Bridge (2,000 metres), Folkard moved back to the centre, by which time he had a comfortable lead of perhaps 15 lengths. Here he approaches the Golden Jubilee and the Hungerford Bridges (2,350 metres), flanked by Anderson on the right and Berry on the left.
Folkard is just about visible in front of the centre buttress of Westminster Bridge (2,950 metres). The ‘London Eye’ is on the left, the Houses of Parliament and ‘Big Ben’ are on the right.
Folkard is just about visible in front of the centre buttress of Westminster Bridge (2,950 metres). The ‘London Eye’ is on the left, the Houses of Parliament and ‘Big Ben’ are on the right.
At Westminster Bridge the positions were unchanged; Folkard, Anderson, Berry.
At Westminster Bridge the positions were unchanged: Folkard, Anderson, Berry.
Conditions remained rough as the race went under the approximate halfway point, Lambeth Bridge (3,650 metres, after which the umpire passed Berry) and approached Vauxhall (pictured here, 4,500 metres).
Conditions remained rough as the race went under the approximate halfway point, Lambeth Bridge (3,650 metres, after which the umpire passed Berry) and approached Vauxhall (pictured here, 4,500 metres).
 At Vauxhall, Folkard dares to dream – but he knows that, in the prevailing conditions, one bad stroke could mean a soaking rather than a celebration. He later said that after Westminster his main concern was ‘keeping my head straight and trying not to do anything silly’ and he admitted to often sculling a short slide.
At Vauxhall, Folkard dares to dream – but he knows that, in the prevailing conditions, one bad stroke could mean a soaking rather than a celebration. He later said that after Westminster his main concern was ‘keeping my head straight and trying not to do anything silly’ and he admitted to often sculling a short slide.
Somewhere before the old Battersea Power Station (5,900 metres) and the leader has a ‘comfortable’ lead.
Somewhere before the old Battersea Power Station (5,900 metres) and the leader has a ‘comfortable’ lead.
Downstream of Grosvenor Rail Bridge and with about 1,200 metres to go, Folkard is feeling good.
Downstream of Grosvenor Rail Bridge and with about 1,200 metres to go, Folkard is feeling good.
Passing under Grosvenor with Chelsea Bridge (6,300 metres) approaching, Folkard is about 30 seconds ahead of Anderson. In the distance is Albert Bridge with the finish (Cadogan Pier) in front of that.
Passing under Grosvenor with Chelsea Bridge (6,300 metres) approaching, Folkard is about 30 seconds ahead of Anderson. In the distance is Albert Bridge with the finish (Cadogan Pier) in front of that.
Anderson, now dropped by the umpire, battles to the finish, here passing one of the spectators’ boats alongside Battersea Park.
Anderson, now dropped by the umpire, battles to the finish, here passing one of the spectators’ boats alongside Battersea Park.
Last few strokes….
Last few strokes….
His third attempt and his final chance finally saw a well-deserved victory for a relieved Ben Folkard.
His third attempt and his final chance finally saw a well-deserved victory for a relieved Ben Folkard.

In part two, some post-race pictures and a little post-race analysis.

3 comments

  1. 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?

    cheers, Louis

  2. Dear Louis,

    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.

    Best wishes,

    Tim.

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