NOTE: RACE POSTPONED DUE TO A WEATHER WARNING – NEW DATE TBC
🚣♀️🚣♂️🚣♀️🚣♂️ Another chapter of rowing history will be made this afternoon with the 308th running of the Doggett’s Race on the River Thames. The race starts by London Bridge at 2.30pm and spectating is free.
The annual Doggett’s Coat and Badge Wager started in 1715. A gruelling test of the participants’ knowledge of the river and rowing prowess, the Doggett’s Race is held annually on the Thames between London Bridge and Cadogan Pier (Chelsea) over a 4 mile 7 furlong (7,400 metre) course that passes under 11 bridges.
Taking place over four centuries it’s the oldest boat race in the world as well as the oldest continuous sporting event. It’s competed for by watermen who have finished their apprenticeship to be allowed to carry goods and people on the River Thames. (For more on the history of the Doggett’s Coat and Badge Wager, founded by the actor Thomas Doggett, see below.)
The draw for the 2022 race took place on 6 June at the Fishmonger’s Hall. The Master of the Company of Watermen and Lightermen presided, with Race Umpire (and previous race winner) Bobby Prentice also present. 308th race draw as follows:-
Mathew Brooksey in Station 1. Colour: Yellow
George Gilbert in Station 2. Colour: Red
Pascal Papis in Station 3. Colour: Light Blue
George Gilbert is competing for his fourth and final attempt (having come second in the 307th race), while Mathew Brooksey and Pascal Papis are entered for the first time.
The most recent race (the 307th edition last September) featured four watermen. Max Carter-Miller won the race in convincing style in a time of 23 minutes 30 seconds, with George Gilbert (looking to go one better this year) in second place, Coran Cherry in third and Lucas Britton in fourth.
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. The 308th winner will 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.
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 is due to umpire the race in 2022 as he has done in recent years.
This race is organised by the Company of Watermen & Lightermen and the Fishmongers’ Company.
Race starts at 2.30pm at London Bridge finishing at Cadogan Pier shortly after 2.50pm.
Spectating is free on the race route (marked 2021, but unchanged) below. Recommended bridges for viewing include London Bridge looking back at Tower Bridge for the start (see picture above), Waterloo Bridge as the rowers pass the London Eye 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 watermen 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.