Race could start at Westminster and end at Putney Bridge
Boat Race route has traditional been from Putney Bridge to Mortlake
A revised route is being considered for the University Boat Race when it returns to the Thames in London next year.
With the 2021 event having been held in Cambridgeshire due to restrictions on river traffic under Hammersmith Bridge and concerns about crowds on the towpath, discussions have taken place about a change for 2022.
According to a report in the Sunday Times the organisers and the Port of London Authority (PLA) are considering a new route, possibly on a permanent basis, that would see the race start at Westminster and end at Putney Bridge.
This new location would, it is hoped, attract more than a million spectators and bring the race passed some of London’s best known landmarks. It would require an extension of the race’s length to over 5 miles from the current 4.2. The route would taken the crews from the London Eye, passed the Tate Britain and Battersea Park to Putney Bridge which previously had been the start rather than the end of the race.
It is assumed there will be no social distancing requirements in place next year but it still remains uncertain whether the repairs to Hammersmith Bridge will be at a stage which would allow the substantial number of support boats which accompany the race to pass under.
Recent estimates have put the time needed to complete the repair of the bridge at as much as six years and there has still been no agreement between the Department for Transport, Transport for London and Hammersmith & Fulham Council as to who will pay for the repairs.
The Sunday Times says PLA has been discussing the plans with Boat Race organisers. PLA's Ryan Hall told them, 'We are very hopeful that the boat races will return to the Thames next year, if not at Hammersmith then on an alternative course, possibly ending at Putney or further upriver.
'Initial discussions with the organisers are under way. The week-long programme of events is an internationally important fixture in the Thames calendar and we are greatly looking forward to welcoming it back to the capital.'
A Boat Race spokesperson said, 'We very much hope to return to the Tideway for the Boat Race 2022 but it is prudent for us to consider contingency plans should the issues with Hammersmith Bridge prevent us from using the historic championship course from Putney to Mortlake,'
A group of local rowing clubs along with Putney High School and Putney MP Fleur Anderson held a protest on the river this weekend to coincide with the Boat Race to highlight how the lack of progress on Hammersmith Bridge was impacting local rowing activities.
The first Boat Race was held in 1835 and since 1856 has been run between Putney Bridge and Mortlake apart from during the world wars and the Covid pandemic.
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April 5, 2021