Women, men share billing in boat race on Thames
Women will be given equal billing with men in the annual boat
race between English universities Oxford and Cambridge, staging the
women’s race on the same day and the same course as the men’s event
starting in 2015.
Organizers said the races on the River Thames in London will
give the women’s race a higher profile and some much-needed
The 4 1/2-mile men’s race from Putney to Mortlake, which was
first staged in 1829, is broadcast to 200 countries. The 1.2-mile
women’s race gets little media attention and has been held further
down the Thames in nearby Henley for the past 35 years.
The decision to grant parity between the sexes in funding and
coverage follows the path set by tennis, where equal prize money is
offered at the Grand Slam tournaments.
”I’m thrilled that the women’s boat race will be given equal
parity with the men’s,” said Annabel Vernon, a rower with
Britain’s national team. ”This provides a massive opportunity to
grow women’s rowing in this country.”
Four-time Olympic gold medalist Matthew Pinsent said its a major
advance for equality in the sport.
”We have had women’s events at the Henley Royal Regatta for 10
years or so now, but this is an important step for what is one of
the pre-eminent rowing races in the world and pre-eminent sporting
fixtures in the world,” Pinsent said.
Female rowers have struggled in the shadows of the men for
years, and were only allowed to race in Olympics starting in
”The women’s boat club doesn’t have nearly the same coaching or
logistical infrastructure behind them – they cycle to training,
they have to run their own cars to drive to a race, they have to
buy their own kit and pay for their own entry fees,” Pinsent said.
”This comes at a good time because there has been all this
discussion about women in sport – it’s a good moment to be
Female crews will be asked to row a course nearly four times the
length of their usual race, providing them with a huge
”We thought about – and quickly rejected – whether it should be
in any way different from the men’s race,” said Robert Gillespie,
chairman of the Boat Race Company. ”It’s everybody’s intention
that it should be exactly the same.”
Helena Morrissey, the chief executive of women’s race sponsor
Newton Investment Management group, has been the driving force
behind gaining equality in the event.
”It is exciting to have the opportunity to fund a program which
is making a real difference to university and women’s rowing, as
well as women’s sport more generally,” said Morrissey, who was a
cox when she studied at Cambridge.
This year’s men’s race will be held on April 7.