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Championship Course

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Championship Course

The stretch of the River Thames between Mortlake and Putney in London, England is a well-established course for rowing races, most famously the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race. It is often referred to as The Championship Course. The course is on the tidal reaches of the river often referred to as the Tideway.


In 1845 it was agreed to stage the Boat Race (which had on five previous occasions been contested from Westminster Bridge to Putney) on a course from 'Putney Bridge to Mortlake Church tower'.[1] The aim was to reduce the interference from heavy river traffic on the race.

The following year, a race for the Professional World Sculling Championship moved to the course for the first time. The Wingfield Sculls followed in 1861.

The course was later defined by two stones on the southern bank of the river, marked "U.B.R." for University Boat Race; one just downstream of Chiswick Bridge, close to The Ship public house, and the other just upstream of Putney Bridge. The course distance is 4 miles and 374 yards (6,779 m), as measured along the centre of the river's stream.

Races are always conducted in the same direction as the tide: from Mortlake to Putney on an ebb tide or from Putney to Mortlake on a flood tide.

Since the Boat Race moved to this course in 1845, it has always been raced on a flood tide from Putney to Mortlake except in 1846, 1856 and 1863. The Wingfield Sculls is also raced from Putney to Mortlake. Most other events race on an ebb tide from Mortlake to Putney.

In April 1869 the Harvard University Boat Club challenged Oxford University Boat Club to an "International University Boat-Race" of coxed fours on the Boat Race course. The event took place on August 27, 1869 and was narrowly won by Oxford. The new Atlantic cable allowed daily reports to be received by all major newspapers across America within 23 minutes of the finish. U.S. public interest in the event was huge with more publicity than any sporting event to date, and within two years of the event the "newly awakened interest in rowing at many of the most noted seats of learning" doubled the number of boat clubs in the U.S., and lead to the formation of the Rowing Association of American Colleges.[2]


Principal landmarks, often used when racing, include (in order from Mortlake to Putney):

Landmark Bank Coordinates Comments
The University Stone South -0.268151|region:GB_type:landmark name=The Boat Race Finish }}||
Chiswick Bridge.
Stag Brewery South -0.266376|region:FR_type:landmark name=Stag Brewery }}||
Budweiser beer.
Barnes Railway Bridge n/a -0.253758|region:FR_type:landmark name=Barnes Railway Bridge }}||
When racing, crews must pass through the centre arch.
The Bandstand North -0.252149|region:GB_type:landmark name=The Bandstand }}||
The Crossing n/a -0.250583|region:GB_type:landmark name=The Crossing

}}|| Marks the start of the long Surrey bend.

Chiswick Pier North -0.250937|region:GB_type:landmark name=Chiswick Pier }} ||
Chiswick Eyot North -0.245814|region:GB_type:landmark name=Chiswick Eyot }}||
An uninhabited river island. There is a channel behind (north of) the eyot navigable at high tide, but it is never used for racing.
Fuller's Brewery North -0.250411|region:GB_type:landmark name=Chiswick Eyot }} ||
Just visible to crews, behind the eyot.
St Paul's School South -0.235855|region:GB_type:landmark name=St Paul's School }}||
Hammersmith Bridge n/a -0.230536|region:GB_type:landmark name=Hammersmith Bridge }}||
Coxes use a particular lamp-post that shows the deepest part of the river and therefore the fastest line.
Harrods' Furniture Repository South -0.227956|region:GB_type:landmark name=Harrods' Furniture Repository }}||
Previously the warehouse for the famous shop, now apartments.
The Crabtree North -0.223482|region:GB_type:landmark name=The Crabtree }} ||
The Mile Post South -0.226987|region:GB_type:landmark name=The Mile Post }}||
London Rowing Club and is precisely a mile from the Putney stone marking the end of the course.
Fulham Football Club North -0.221655|region:GB_type:landmark name=Fulham Football Club }}||
The stadium is known as 'Craven Cottage': crews stay wide round the bend as the area in front of the ground is shallow, with slack water.
The Black Buoy South -0.221132|region:GB_type:landmark name=The Black Buoy }} ||
The large buoy marks the start of the area of the Putney Boat Houses. It has a reputation for ensnaring inexperienced crews when there is a fast ebb tide, for example during the various Head of the River races.
The Putney Stone South -0.213756|region:GB_type:landmark name=Boat Race start }} ||
Putney Bridge.


Rowing clubs along the course


See also

  • Rowing on the River Thames
  • The Port of London Rowing Chart includes a map of the course showing detailed rules for rowers, the deep water channel, local rowing clubs and other landmarks.
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