Head of the River Race

Photo: Matt Byrne

Head of the River Race

Congratulations to Oxford Brookes University ‘A’ who finished in a time of 17:11.8 to go Head of the River winning the Fairbairn Trophy.  In second place, just over 3 seconds behind Brookes, were Leander ‘A’ who won the Club Pennant.  Brookes’ 2nd Eight came third just with a finishing time just 0.1 secs behind Leander.  Stay tuned for news of the 2020 race and in the meantime visit our Events! page now for news of all the best spectator action coming up in London. 

The River Thames is the stage for the latest instalment of the Head of the River Race, the first and largest single processional rowing race in the world.

Hundreds of boats, the best including GB and international Olympians in club colours, are set to take to the water in this historic event which gets underway at 11.30am in the shadow of Chiswick Bridge in Mortlake.  Spectating is free.

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.

This year the Head will include a division of boats from the Women’s Head for the first time after the latter was cancelled due to Storm Gareth.  While not racing against the men it’s a move that will only heighten the spectacle as some 400 boats form a single procession of men’s and women’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.

Crews to watch: Last year’s race ended in a sensational draw between Oxford Brookes University and Leander Club and it’s the former that will start the race with only 1 crew having that honour, subsequent crews are set off in 10 second intervals.  The Oxford Brookes boat contains many U23 GB internationals and future stars destined for the Olympics and is fresh from defeating both Oxford and Cambridge in recent fixtures.  However expect Leander Club, comprising a nucleus of the current GB squad, to be in hot pursuit as they set off second in their familiar pink strip.  Thames Rowing Club, setting off in 7th, is again the fastest Tideway club crew while Molesey (racing all in black) starting immediately after them in 8th will be one to watch having been Head boat only a few seasons ago.  Elite crews from Czech Republic, Spain, Switzerland, Italy and Germany will also be racing, the first of which is CVK Praha starting at 17.  Meanwhile an international boat sure to receive extra attention is The Chinese Rowing Federation (starting at 15) after Sir Steve Redgrave’s appointment as high performance director of the Chinese national rowing team last year.

Head of the River Race

Photo: Matt Byrne

Start time and finish:  The first crew will start at 11.30am in Mortlake, thereafter crews are set off in 10 second intervals meaning it will be well after 12.30pm when the final boat starts.  From 11.45am or shortly after the boats will start arriving at Putney Bridge with the procession continuing till around 1.15pm.

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 may rowing clubs and pubs serving refreshments.

Last but not least … Boat Race alert!  Taking place on the Sunday 7th April the Women’s Boat Race starts at 2.13pm with the Men’s Boat Race 3.10pm.  Racing on the Championships Course, from Putney to Mortlake, join some 250,000 spectators who will be lining the banks of the river for this annual Oxford v Cambridge showdown on the River Thames.