This year marks the 166th anniversary of the annual men’s boat race between Oxford University and Cambridge University, and the 75th women’s race.
The race normally takes place close to Easter each year on the River Thames between Putney and Mortlake. But while last year was cancelled due to coronavirus (the first time that had happened outside of a world war), this year there is another twist…
The showpiece has been moved away from London and will instead take part on a flat and windy corner of Cambridgeshire, on an almost bolt-straight stretch of the Great Ouse. This comes after a combination of strict social distancing and repair work to Hammersmith Bridge forced event organisers to look elsewhere for 2021.
The men’s race has previously been run once at Ely, in 1944, when the war made it impossible to stage in London.
When is it?
The race is on Sunday, April 4.
What time does it start?
The women’s race begins at 3.50pm and the men’s race follows an hour later at 4.50pm.
What TV channel is it on?
Live coverage of The Boat Race will be on BBC1, with coverage from 3pm.
Where does it start and finish?
This year’s race will start at the Queen Adelaide Bridge near Ely and finish just short of the Sandhill Bridge at Littleport. The course is just over 3 miles (4.89km) long – shorter than the usual Thames route which is about 4.2 miles (6.8km).
Where else can I watch?
Unlike normal years where spectators can pick out several pleasant vantage spots along the river, this weekend’s race will be a ‘closed’ event due to coronavirus, meaning no spectators.
Footpaths, the windswept banks and the start and finish bridges will all be closed and people are being urged ‘to stay local and stay at home’. Instead the best way to watch will be via the television coverage.
Who has won the most races?
This year is the 166th men’s race – and Cambridge, who are the defending champions, currently lead 84-80. The only draw came in 1877 when there was a dead heat-finish.
Cambridge also won last year’s women’s race and have a healthy 43-30 overall lead over Oxford.
Who will be rowing?
Women’s Blue Boat crews
- Katie Anderson, bow, (Brasenose College)
- Anja Zehfuss, 2 (Green Templeton College)
- Megan Stoker, 3 (St Peter’s College)
- Amelia Standing, 4 (St Anne’s College)
- Martha Birtles, 5 (Mansfield College)
- Georgina Grant, 6 (Harris Manchester College)
- Julia Lindsay, 7 (St Cross College)
- Katherine Maitland, stroke (St Hugh’s College)
- Costi Levy, cox (Exeter College)
- Adriana Perez Rotondo, bow (Newnham College)
- Sarah Portsmouth, 2 (Newnham College)
- Abba Parker, 3 (Emmanuel College)
- Caoimhe Dempsey, 4 (Newnham College)
- Anouschka Fenley, 5 (Lucy Cavendish College)
- Sophie Paine, 6 (Girton College)
- Bronya Sykes, 7 (Gonville & Caius College)
- Sarah Tisdall, stroke (Lucy Cavendish College)
- Dylan Whitaker, cox (King’s College)
Men’s Blue Boat crews
- James Forward, bow (Pembroke College)
- Alex Bebb, 2 (St Peter’s College)
- Martin Barakso, 3 (Kellogg College)
- Felix Drinkall, 4 (Lady Margaret Hall)
- Tobias Schröder, 5 (Magdalen College)
- Jean-Philippe Dufour, 6 (Lincoln College)
- Joshua Bowesman-Jones, 7 (Keble College)
- Augustin Wambersie, stroke (St Catherine’s College)
- Jesse Oberst, cox (Pembroke College)
- Theo Weinberger, bow (St John’s College)
- Ben Dyer, 2 (Gonville & Caius College)
- Seb Benzecry, 3 (Jesus College)
- Quinten Richardson, 4 (Fitzwilliam College)
- Garth Holden, 5 (St Edmund’s College)
- Ollie Parish, 6 (Peterhouse)
- Callum Sullivan, 7 (Peterhouse)
- Drew Taylor, stroke (Clare College)
- Charlie Marcus, cox (Trinity College)
What is the weather forecast?
The current BBC weather forecast is for winds of 13mph, and temperatures of around 13C.
What are the odds?
We will update this section when betting markets release the odds for the 2021 Boat Race.
- Cambridge – TBC
- Oxford – TBC
- Dead Heat – TBC
Redgrave raises concerns over lack of drug testing
By Ben Rumsby
The Boat Race was under major pressure to introduce drug testing on Thursday after Sir Steve Redgrave spoke out over its lack of doping controls.
Redgrave, regarded by many as Britain’s greatest Olympian, told Telegraph Sport ahead of Sunday’s contest between Oxford and Cambridge universities that all sporting events should be subject to in-competition testing.
The absence of such testing at the Boat Race has previously provoked alarm among former rowers, anti-doping crusaders and MPs, with Telegraph Sport having been told after its last running two years ago that organisers had ignored calls to introduce such checks.
Becoming the biggest name yet to speak out over its lack of doping controls, five-time Olympic rowing champion Redgrave said: “Any sport, especially elite sport, should be subject to random testing during both training and competition. We believe our sport is clean. Drug testing shows we have nothing to hide.”
Telegraph Sport has been told British Rowing previously raised concerns with Boat Race organisers about the potential threat to the integrity of the races.
Such concerns have grown amid the increasing professionalisation of what is still classed as an amateur competition but which its own website has billed as a “world-class event” and which has featured an array of past and future rowing champions.
The last men’s race two years ago was watched by 6.2 million on the BBC, while the earlier women’s race attracted an audience of 4.8 million.
Around 300,000 normally descend annually on the River Thames for an event that is transmitted to more than 200 countries and which William Hill estimated attracted £1 million in bets in 2019.
Those figures stand comparison with most major sporting events.
The races have also historically boasted an enviable roster of commercial partners and Telegraph Sport has been told random post-race testing of two competitors from each of the four boats would only cost in the region of £6,000.
UK Anti-Doping does not carry out testing during the Boat Race, over which British Rowing has no jurisdiction, but sources within the sport told the Telegraph after the last running of the races two years ago that every competitor was likely to have taken part in a prior event where doping control took place.
The world’s most famous crusader against drugs in sport, Travis Tygart, warned at the time that was not enough, while Clive Efford MP, Labour’s former shadow sports minister who is now a leading member of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee, said he was “shocked” no drug testing took place during “something that purports to be such a great sporting event”.
Organisers were also warned by Vicki Aggar, the chair of the British Athletes Commission and Paralympic rowing medallist, that their “duty of care” included ensuring competitors were not putting their health at risk.
Aggar said those forced to combine their studies with what she described as a “phenomenal level of training” on a par with that of an Olympic athlete were at greater risk of taking a banned substance, pointing out those competing at the World University Games were subject to drug tests.
The Boat Race Company Limited said on Thursday: “As members of British Rowing (or other National Governing Bodies), all athletes competing in the Boat Race must comply with UK Anti-Doping rules at all times. The relevant anti-doping agency (specifically, UKAD) could choose to test any athlete at any time, both in competition and out of competition, and we would strongly support them in doing so.”
The company declined to comment on whether it had approached UKAD to discuss the introduction of post-race testing or whether it was willing to pay for it.
That was after UKAD, which says it focuses its limited taxpayer-funded resources on “where there is public interest and where the greatest threat to clean sport lies”, told Telegraph Sport after the last running of the event that it was “all ears if the Boat Race would like to discuss their arrangements”.
A spokesperson said on Thursday: “The hosts of private events which are not sanctioned by the governing bodies should consider their commitment to clean sport and UKAD always welcomes the opportunity to bolster its testing programme through additional contracted testing.”