Dust off your gilet, and mix up a strong flask of Pimm's. It's time to watch London's poshest annual sporting fixture: the boat races.
What is the boat race?
There are actually two boat races — which pit rowing teams from Oxford and Cambridge universities against one another, in a furious dash along the Thames. It all started with the men's inaugural fixture in 1829 — a race which was held annually between 1856 and 2019, world wars excepted. It was cancelled in 2020 due to Covid 19, and in 2021 it took place 'behind closed doors' in Cambridgeshire, to prevent crowds gathering.
The women's race first ran in 1927, although it didn't become an annual event until 1964. It wasn't until 2015 that the women first raced the same course, on the same day as the men.
When are the 2022 boat races?
Both races are back in their rightful place in London on Sunday 3 April 2022. The women's race begins at 2.23pm. The men's follows at 3.23pm.
What route do the boat races take?
Both races now cover the same route. A four-mile, 374 yards dash along the Thames, westward from Putney to Mortlake.
The women's course record was set by Cambridge in 2017: 18 minutes, 33 seconds. The men's record is also held by Cambridge, set in 1998: 16 minutes, 19 seconds.
Considerably shorter than watching a footy match, then.
Where's the best place to watch the boat races from?
Pick a spot most places along the banks of the Thames between Putney Bridge and Chiswick Bridge, and you should be able to see the boats. There are a couple of official fan zones set up along the route, where you'll find large screens to watch the BBC coverage, plus food and drink stalls, toilets, seating etc. They are:
- Bishops Park fan park (north side of the river between Putney and Hammersmith Bridges)
- Furnivall Gardens fan park (north side of the river, just west of Hammersmith Bridge)
If you can't make it to those, certain other vantage points that come highly recommended:
- Putney Bridge
- Putney Embankment
- The Pier House, Chiswick Pier — one of the best vantage points along the course, and food, bar and big live music from 12.30pm
- Thames Reach, Hammersmith
We recommend you get to any of these places at least a couple of hours before the races start. A picnic and warm clothes aren't a bad idea either.
Hammersmith Bridge will not be open to spectators this year, owing to safety fears. It'll be closed between 10am-5pm on the day.
Where's the best pub to watch the boat races from?
Try one of these riverside beauts. But get there bright and early or book a table in advance if you're after a decent view of the river.
- The Boathouse, Putney (this is positioned just behind the starting line — so for those who want to see the boats gather)
- Duke's Head, Putney
- Crabtree Tavern, Hammersmith — hosts a Boat Race Day festival with live music and entertainment.
- Blue Anchor, Hammersmith
- The Dove, Hammersmith
- The Black Lion, Chiswick
- The Bull's Head, Barnes
- Ye White Hart, Barnes
- The Ship, Mortlake
What's the weather going to be like?
Too early to call! Keep an eye on the Met Office info closer to the time.
Are the boat races shown on TV?
Yep. Watched by about 15 million people. Both races are broadcast on BBC One on Sunday, with commentary usually beginning an hour or so before the women's race.
For more information on the boat races, including details on who's rowing, visit the official website.