The Boat Race Welcomes The Heavenly Twins

With the exception of Ladbrokes (1977 – 1986), this picture of the 2019 Oxford Veterans’ Crew shows the history of sponsorship of the Boat Race. On display is kit from Beefeater Gin (1987 – 1998), Aberdeen Asset Management (1999 – 2004), Xchanging (2005 – 2011), and BNY Mellon (2012 – 2020).

9 March 2021

By Tim Koch

Tim Koch may start to believe in astrology.

There has been little good news on the rowing front in the past year but today, 9 March, the Boat Race Company has made a rare positive announcement.

Like Henley, the Boat Race does not have anything as vulgar as ‘sponsors’ but it does have ‘partners’. However, BNY Mellon, the ‘Principal Partner’ since 2013, has been trying to extricate itself for several years but no replacement could be found. With the pandemic producing an uncertain future for most businesses, the current chances of finding a suitable benefactor seemed even smaller than in pre-COVID times. However, digital currency seems to a thriving business and it has just been announced that Gemini, a ‘cryptocurrency exchange and custodian’ founded in 2014 by Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, will be the ‘Principal Partner’ of the 2021 Boat Race.

Cameron (left) and Tyler (right) pictured in 2010 when they rowed for Oxford. ’Gemini’ is Latin for ‘twins’and, famously, the constellation of Gemini is made up of two twins. Zeus, King of the Gods, agreed to immortalise both if they spent half of their time on earth and the other half in the heavens amongst the stars. According to the “Oxford Companion to Classical Literature”, they are the patrons of sailors, travellers, athletes and athletic contests.

For those with short memories, twins Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss were in the 2004 Harvard varsity heavyweight eight that won the Eastern Sprints, the Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championship and the Harvard – Yale Race. Further, the crew got to the finals of the Lucerne World Cup and the Henley Grand. The brothers were the U.S. pair at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and both rowed for Oxford in the 2010 Boat Race. Also, they were once Facebook Friends with Mark Zuckerberg.

The press release also confirmed the Boat Race’s ongoing commitment to making rowing a more open, inclusive and accessible sport:

The partnership will further develop the sport by engaging young people with limited access to rowing through The Gemini Boat Race Bursary Scheme. The £75,000 Bursary will provide rowing instruction and education to students through the Fulham Reach Boat Club, a registered charity that aims to remove the financial barriers that often prevent them from taking part.

In a normal year, Fulham Reach Boat Club, a charity with the aim of ‘unlocking the potential of young people through rowing’, puts over 1,000 state school children on the water, 64% of which are BAME and 62% of which are female.

Cameron Winklevoss, president at Gemini:

Our experience in rowing taught us that whether you are building yourself as an athlete or building a start-up, the power of big dreams together with conviction and perseverance cannot be underestimated. We are excited to support this historic event to go ahead safely and widen access to the sport through The Gemini Boat Race Bursary Scheme. Our hope for the Bursary Scheme is to enable more young people to explore the skills that rowing develops in and outside of the boat, including focus, confidence and teamwork.

Steve O’Connor, founder and CEO of Fulham Reach Boat Club:

We’re hugely excited to have Gemini announced as the principal partner of the Boat Race. The creation of the Gemini Boat Race Bursary Scheme will allow our ongoing partnership with the Boat Race to grow and open up further access to the benefits of rowing for hundreds of young people who live and go to school along the banks of the Thames and wouldn’t normally get the chance to take part.  

Tyler (left) and Cameron (right) pictured in 2015. Some have compared the cryptocurrency boom to the unsustainable ‘South Sea Bubble’ of 1720, others say that transparently traded and well-capitalised digital currency is ‘as good as gold’. Don’t ask me – I chose Betamax over VHS (and still do). Picture: TechCrunch.

The 166th Men’s and 75th Women’s races will take place on the River Great Ouse at Ely on 4 April 2021 as ‘The Gemini Boat Race’, a ‘safe and closed event’ covered live by the BBC. Existing partners (Chapel Down, Wainwright Golden Beer, Player Layer and the BBC) remain.

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