Hot Doggetts

Fishmongers’ Company Bargemaster and ex-officio Doggett’s Coat and Badge Umpire, Harry Phelps, feels the heat before the 1948 race.

18 July 2022

By Tim Koch

Tim Koch on some hot news.

On 15 July, the Watermen’s Company announced that the 2022 Doggett’s Coat and Badge Race scheduled for tomorrow, 19 July, has been postponed following the UK Meteorological Office issuing an unprecedented “Danger to Life” warning for parts of the UK over expected high temperatures. The heat in London could measure 37°C/98°F on the 19 July. The date for the rescheduled race is likely to be in September.

The competitors for the 2022 Doggetts pictured at the draw for stations held at Watermen’s Hall on 6 June. Left to right are fourth time racer, George Gilbert, next to new boys Pascal Papis and Mathew Brookes. Behind them is the race umpire, Bobby Prentice. Unfortunately, Papis has since had to drop out due to injury. Picture: Facebook.

The world’s oldest existing continuously run rowing race, the “Doggett’s Coat and Badge Wager” was instituted in 1715 as an event for up to six men who had just finished the long apprenticeship to be allowed to carry goods and people on the River Thames. When Thomas Doggett instituted his eponymous race in 1715, he stated that it was to be held “on the first day of August forever.” More than 300 years later, the exact date has proven to be something of a movable feast but the “forever” part has been held true to the founder’s wishes – even if a little manipulation has been required.

David Thomas from Dagenham keeps cool after winning the 1939 race.

The 7,400-metre race from London Bridge to Chelsea was run annually from 1715 until the First World War intervened. There were no races 1915 – 1919 but, in 1920, six races were run over two days for those who had finished their apprenticeships in the missing years. The Second World War meant that there was no racing for the Coat and Badge between 1940 and 1946 and the eight postponed races were held over two days in 1947. COVID-19 delayed the 2020 race, the 306th, but it was eventually held on 25 June 2021 and the race for 2021 took place just eleven weeks later, on 8 September 2021.

Gilbert, pictured here last year, is the favourite to win the 308th Doggett’s Coat and Badge.

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