Head of the River Race

Photo: Matt Byrne


Head of the River Race

🚣‍♀️🚣‍♂️ The River Thames is the stage for the return of the Head of the River Race, the largest single processional rowing race in the world.  Spectating is free.

Hundreds of crews of men’s eights crews, the best including GB and international Olympians in club colours, are set to take to the water in today’s Head of the River Race.  Taking place for the first time since 2019 (after the 2020 and 2021 editions had to be cancelled as a result of the covid pandemic) the action gets underway at 2.45pm in the shadow of Chiswick Bridge in Mortlake.

The Head of the River Race

Photo: Head of the River Race

Founded in 1926 by Cambridge and Tideway oarsman Steve Faibairn, the Head of the River Race – known as ‘The Head‘ – began life as a target for local crews at the end of the winter training season.  21 crews took part in the inaugural race which to this day takes place annually over 4¼ mile Thames Championship Course from Mortlake to Putney – i.e. the Boat Race course in reverse.  Click on the course map (left) to see the course in full.

Fast forward to the present day and over 300 crews are expected to be entered into the 2022 race to form a single procession of men’s eights heading east on the River Thames.  The winning men’s crew is the fastest to cover the course on which the record was set in 1987 by the Great Britain rowing team at 16 minutes 37 seconds.  

The full draw for the race can be viewed here once it has been published nearer to race day.

Crews to watch: The waiting is over for the 2019 (the last time the race was held) winners Oxford Brookes University ‘A’ – in a time of 17:11.8 – who will be out to defend the Fairbairn Trophy.  A big threat is sure to come from the Leander ‘A’ crew who finished second in 2019 winning the Club Pennant in a time 3 seconds behind Brookes.  Meanwhile Brookes’ 2nd Eight can’t be ruled out after they completed the 2019 podium finishing just 0.1 secs behind Leander.

Head of the River Race

Photo: Matt Byrne

🚣‍♀️🚣‍♂️ Start time and finish:  The first crew will start at 2.45pm in Mortlake, thereafter crews are set off in 10 second intervals meaning it will be well after 3.30pm when the final boat starts.  From 3pm or shortly after the boats will start arriving at Putney Bridge with the procession continuing till around 4.30pm.

🎟️ Spectating is free on the route.

🧐 Best viewing spots:  Mortlake will be buzzing at the start as all the crews gather with Chiswick Bridge providing an ideal place to take in the build-up and start of the race.  En route Barnes Bridge is a favourite with the race still in its relatively early stages while at Hammersmith Bridge the strain will be telling on the crews well into the second half of the course.  The banks of the River Thames at Putney (a couple of hundred metres before the bridge) is the place to be to see the crews over the finishing line with many rowing clubs and pubs serving refreshments.

🚣‍♀️🚣‍♂️ Last but not least … 2022 Boat Race alert!!  Back on the River Thames for the first time since 2019 and taking place on the Sunday 3 April join some 250,000 spectators lining the banks of the river for the annual Oxford v Cambridge showdown on the Championship Course.

👀 For more great spectator sport in London visit our ‘What’s On ‘ page.  And for regular reminders to ensure you don’t miss a moment of the action subscribe now to our free newsletter.