Champions Return to the Championship Course

The Finish of the Oxford – Cambridge Boat Race at Mortlake by James Baylis Allan, 1867.

18 October 2021

By Tim Koch

Tim Koch looks forward to multiple trips between P and M.

Two recent and very welcome press releases heralded the return of two historic boat races to the equally historic Tideway Championship Course that runs between Putney and Mortlake. Firstly, the Boat Race Company announced:

The (Oxford – Cambridge) Boat Race will return to its celebrated Championship Course on the River Thames in London and will take place on Sunday, 3 April 2022.
Due to the challenge of planning a high-profile sporting event around COVID-19 related restrictions at the time, the 2021 race location was moved and took place behind closed doors, in Ely, Cambridgeshire.
However, with the latest Government guidance, the lifting of social restrictions and more certainty for organisations to host live events going forward, the 76th Women’s and the 167th Men’s Boat Races are excited to return to the famous Championship Course that stretches over 4.25 miles of the tidal Thames in West London between Putney and Mortlake. The Women’s Boat Race will start at 14.23 and the Men’s Boat Race will begin at 15.23.
The world-famous sporting event between the UK’s two historic universities – Oxford and Cambridge – spans 185 years of rivalry and the Race has become synonymous with British tradition and excellence. The Race has established itself as the epitome of amateur sport, raced by scholar athletes who combine academic rigour with elite physical prowess. There is no greater occasion.

Rivalry: Oxford President, Felix Drinkall (left) and Cambridge President Dara Alizadeh (right) shake hands before the 2019 race.

The Boat Race is one of the most iconic events in world sport, but our supporters missed out on it over the last two seasons due to COVID-19 so we are looking forward to welcoming them and the crews back to London in 2022. We will continue to enhance all aspects of the race, delivering an exceptional experience for the athletes, spectators and viewers alike, while celebrating the event’s heritage and connection with our loyal community of supporters. Our vision is to further grow The Boat Race’s engagement and experience for existing and new audiences.”

Continuity: The Cambridge men of 1910 and Oxford women who would have raced in the ultimately cancelled 2020 race share the same course.

The good news about the Boat Race was quickly followed by the announcement that the Wingfield Sculls (an event one year older than the 1829 founded Oxbridge race) would run over the Championship Course on 21 October. In 2020, a “Covid compliant” event was allowed to take place – though the closure of passage under Hammersmith Bridge forced it to race from Hammersmith to Kew. 

The press release says:

First raced in 1830, the Wingfield Sculls has remained a favourite race for the UK’s top scullers over the years and this year’s races promises to continue that theme… 

Originally contested along a strip of water between Westminster and Putney, the modern race runs along the Championship course – that of the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race – between Putney and Mortlake. The scullers race six-abreast to be crowned ‘British Amateur Sculling Champion’ and ‘Champion of the Thames’ with the accompanying pair of silver sculls, as devised by the race’s founder Henry Colsell Wingfield, awarded to the champion to symbolise the achievement. The race committee is composed of previous Wingfield Champions, meaning the true colours of this unique race have remained strong throughout its fascinating history…

Winfield’s Champions: St George Ashe (1904) and Mathilda Hodgkins-Byrne (2015).

In the women’s race (at 12.45) we have the 2nd, 3rd & 4th placed scullers from the recent Scullers head in Kathryn Mole (Leeds RC), previous Wingfield Sculls challenger, Meghann Jackson (Upper Thames RC) with fellow clubmate Grace Bake (London RC). They line up against Lola Anderson (Leander) who won the Princess Grace Challenge Cup at HRR 2021 and a Bronze medal in W1x at the recent U23 World Championships and Georgina Brawshaw (Leander) who raced in last year’s championship. 

Prior to the 2019 Women’s Race, Meghann Jackson goes afloat alongside the 42-foot saloon launch Verity, a splendid Edwardian craft that serves as the Wingfield Sculls umpire and press boat.

Up for the men (at 2.00) we also have a full house with six scullers. Olympian Graeme Thomas (Agecroft RC) will compete for the first time since his 4th place at the Tokyo Olympics in the M2x, he will be challenged by several up and coming scullers in the form of Jack Keating (Leander Club) and Callum Dixon (Twickenham RC) who after racing each other in the final of the Prince of Wales Challenge Cup at Henley this year, are both knocking on the doors of the Great Britain Senior squad. They will be joined by local Tideway challengers Nathan O’Reilly (London RC), Gregor Maxwell (London RC), and Rui Xu (London RC) having all recently raced this year’s Scullers Head.

Graeme Thomas winning the Diamond Sculls at this year’s Henley.

After the success of last year’s live streaming, we are very excited to have Ludum on board this year in providing GPS and live data overlaying the online streaming of the races, making the races more engaging and immersive to watch for those at home…

This year, we are guaranteed two new champions as no former champions are competing in the race on the 21st of October. 

The Wingfields Centenary Dinner of 1930. The dinner for Wingfield’s Champions that is held every ten years will take place after this year’s race.

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