Head of the River Race

Photo: Matt Byrne


CANCELLED – Head of the River Race


🚣‍♀️🚣‍♂️ 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 men’s crews, 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 2.45pm 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.

Fast forward to the present day and 321 crews are entered into the 2020 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.  Also taking part are a number of women’s crews after their Head of the River Race was cancelled earlier this month due to conditions on the river being unsafe.

The full draw for the race has been published and can be viewed here.

Crews to watch: Last  year’s winners Oxford Brookes University ‘A’ – in a time of 17:11.8 – will be out to defend the Fairbairn Trophy.  A big threat is sure to come from the Leander ‘A’ crew who finished second last year winning the Club Pennant in a time 3 seconds behind Brookes.  Meanwhile Brookes’ 2nd Eight can’t be ruled out after they came third in 2019 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 may rowing clubs and pubs serving refreshments.

Last but not least … 2020 Boat Race alert!  Taking place on the Sunday 29 March the Women’s Boat Race starts at 3.44pm with the Men’s Boat Race at 4.44pm.  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.