🚣♀️🚣♂️ Another chapter of rowing history will be made this afternoon with the 305th running of the Doggett’s Race on the River Thames. The race starts at 2pm by London Bridge and spectating is free.
The annual Doggett’s Coat and Badge Wager, the oldest rowing race in the world, started in 1715. A gruelling test of the participants’ knowledge of the river and sporting prowess the Doggett’s Race is held each summer on the Thames between London Bridge and Cadogan Pier (Chelsea) over a 4 mile 7 furlong (7,400 metre) course that takes in 11 bridges.
This year’s race – a curtain-raiser course to the month-long Totally Thames festival – will feature four recently-qualified watermen all making their race debut as follows:-
Patrick Keech (21) from Hextable, near Dartford, graduates this summer in Marketing from Portsmouth University. He started rowing at a young age in London’s Royal Docks with his brother Jack, who won the 2017 race. A member of the Tideway Scullers club in Chiswick, he will be rowing in red. He was the UK national youth sailing champion in 2015.
James Berry (22), a master captain with MBNA Thames Clippers. He comes from Canterbury, where he is a member of the King’s School Boat Club. He’ll be rowing in light blue. In 2018, Brazilian jiu jitsu helped him lose six and a half stone in weight.
George Gilbert from Bexleyheath in Kent, rowing in green on race day, is also a member of Globe Rowing Club. He’s employed by Capital Pleasure Boats (CPBS), based at Temple in central London, and previously worked at City Cruises.
Jack Finelli (21), rowing in dark blue. He works for Thames tug operators GPS and is a member of Globe Rowing Club, Greenwich. His hometown is Gravesend.
The race champion will be officially recognised at a livery dinner at Fishmongers’ Hall in November, attended by previous winners, all wearing their victor’s red coat. For more information about the history of the Doggett’s Race from 1715 to date see below.
Last year’s winner, Alfie Anderson from Poplar, Blackwall & District Rowing Club , completed the four-mile course in 25 minutes and 27 seconds and went on to receive the ceremonial scarlet coat, an honour awarded to every winner in the race’s 300-year history, featuring a large silver badge on the arm (see below), designed by Doggett himself.
Other previous winners of the race include Sean Collins (in 1990), the chief executive and co-founder of MBNA Thames Clippers, and the Port of London Authority’s Michael Russell in 1997.
The race record of 22 minutes and 23 seconds, set in 1973, is held by Bobby Prentice, who will once again umpire the race this year.
This race is organised by the Company of Watermen & Lightermen and the Fishmongers’ Company. It is sponsored by Oarsport and luxury watchmakers Pinchbeck.
Race starts at 2pm at London Bridge finishing at Cadogan Pier shortly after 2.20pm.
Spectating is free on the route. The best spots are on London Bridge for the start and Albert Bridge for the finish at Cadogan Pier.
About the Doggett’s Coat and Badge Wager: The Doggett’s Race was founded by Thomas Doggett who was born in Dublin and who moved to London in 1690 to pursue a career in acting.
Doggett retired in 1713 after a career as an actor, comedian and former manager of the Drury Lane Theatre that saw him admire the skills of newly licensed waterman who rowed him home across the River Thames.
In 1715 Doggett, a keen Whig, founded the prize of Doggett’s Coat and Badge in honour of the House of Hanover, in commemoration of King George I’s accession to the Throne on 1st August 1714. According to “Doggett’s custom” only young watermen “in the first year of their Freedom of the Watermen’s Company” were entitled to enter the race,
Doggett himself organised and managed the race each year until his death in 1721. In his Will he instructed his executors to endow the race and to hand over the funds in trust to Mr. Burt of the Admiralty Office who was to manage the race after his death.
Doggett left a set of detailed instructions in his Will as to the style and cost of the badge and the livery which was to be presented to the winner. The Trust was to provide: “five pounds for a Badge of Silver representing Liberty, eighteen shillings for a Livery on which the Badge was to be put, a guinea for making up the suit of livery and buttons and appurtenances to it, and 30/- to the Clerk of the Watermen’s Hall”.
Mr. Burt apparently was not very willing to accept the Trust and in November 1721 entered into a Deed with the executors of Doggett’s Will and the Fishmongers’ Company, which effectively passed the Trusteeship of the race to the Fishmongers’ Company, with an endowment of £350. In 1722 the Fishmongers’ Company organised the race for the first time and has faithfully complied with Doggett’s Will ever since.
Each year the winner of the race, wearing his new Coat and badge is presented to the Prime Warden of the Fishmongers’ Company at a grand banquet held at Fishmongers’ Hall, usually in November. In November 2010 HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and HRH The Princess Royal attended the presentation.
According to “Doggett’s custom” only young watermen “in the first year of their Freedom of the Watermen’s Company” were entitled to enter the race, which effectively meant that a waterman only had one attempt. Of course, in Doggett’s time, watermen were much more numerous than they are now, being the equivalent of the modern day taxi driver.
However, by the early 1980’s, the number of watermen working on the Thames had declined and fewer apprentices were being trained, which meant there was a lack of qualified competitors to row for “Doggett’s Coat and Badge”. Therefore, in 1988 it was decided to extend the entry qualification to allow a person three attempts at the race.
Few annual individual sporting contests in the world can match the continuous history of the Race for Doggett’s Coat and badge (1715). Among team races, the Palio horse race in Siena, Italy dates back to the 17th Century and has been run twice-yearly since early 18th Century (www.ilpalio.org)
In Britain the Antient Silver Arrow annual anchary contest in Yorkshire traces it’s history back to 1673, but was interrupted during several wars and no contest is recorded to have taken place in 35 years (www.scortonasrrow.com)
The Doggett’s Race was interrupted during the Second World War, but after the War a full series of Races was won for those eligible in each year, ensuring the continuous history of the Race since 1715.
History of the race courtesy of the Doggett’s Race website.