The Course

  • The Championship Course, Putney to Mortlake
    The Championship Course, Putney to Mortlake

    The Boat Race course, known as the Championship Course is 4 miles, 374 yards or 6.8 Km long. It stretches between Putney and Mortlake on the River Thames in South West London.

    This course was first used for the Boat Race in 1845 and has been used for every race since, (apart from 1846, 1856 and 1863 when the race was held in the opposite direction between Mortlake and Putney).

    The Fulham/Chiswick side of the course is known as the Middlesex side. The Putney/Barnes side of the course is known as the Surrey side.

    The Boat Races are rowed upstream, but are timed to start on the incoming flood tide.  The Boat Race is usually an hour before high tide, with the Women's Boat Race a further hour before so that the crews are rowing with the fastest possible current.

  • The University Stone
    The University Stone

    The University Stone is set into the towpath on Putney Embankment a few metres below Putney Bridge.

    The races will start from two stake boats moored so that the competitors' bows are in line with the University Stone.

    There is an equivalent stone set into the bank,  adjacent to The Ship pub in Mortlake, at the finish of the race.

    The University Stone at Putney
  • Detail map of the start
    Detail map of the start

    Before The Cancer Research UK Boat Race the umpire will toss a coin, an 1829 gold sovereign, to decide which side or station the crews will row on. The challenger (the President of the losing club from the previous year), will call heads or tails.

    The Cancer Research UK Women's Boat Race toss will use a 2015 gold sovereign to commemorate the first year The Women's Boat Race took place on the Championship Course.

    In both races, the choice of stations could prove decisive. The President's decision will be based on the day's weather conditions and the advantage they thinks their crew can gain from either the Middlesex or Surrey bends.  The first and final bends give an advantage to the crew on the Middlesex station, while the long middle bend favours Surrey. 

  • Crews race off the start at Putney
    Crews race off the start at Putney

    The crews warm up heading through both Putney road and rail bridges towards Wandsworth before returning to move on to the stake boats. This version of Putney Bridge was completed in 1886.

    Aligned on the stake boats, the athletes will be able to look across at their opposition for the first time.  Watched by thousands of spectators, the early stages of the races will see the crews pass the Putney boathouses on their way to Chiswick.

    The crews race past the boathouses and crowds in Putney in the 2014 BNY Mellon Boat Race
  • The Mile Post
    The Mile Post

    Times are recorded during the race at fixed points along the course. The first of these is The Mile Post, 1 mile from the University Stone at the start of the race.

    The plinth on the Surrey bank commemorates Cambridge 'Blue' & Tideway coach Steve Fairbairn. It was erected by members of Thames and London Rowing Club's in honour of Fairbairn's skills as a coach and his role in founding the Head of the River Race in 1926.

    The record to this point is held by Cambridge (1998), in a time of 3mins 33 sec.

    The plinth at The Mile Post commemorating Steve Fairbairn
  • Harrods Depository
    Harrods Depository

    A key landmark for crews and spectators alike, Harrods Depository was a furniture warehouse for the eponymous store. Converted into flats in the 1990's the building has a commanding position on the Surrey bank, just before the crews shoot Hammersmith Bridge.

    The advantage is just beginning to turn towards the Surrey crew at this point, and was where Oxford (on the Surrey station) broke clear in The 2014 BNY Mellon Boat Race. 

    The 2011 Boat Race crews passing Harrods Depository
  • Boat Race crews approaching Hammersmith Bridge
    Boat Race crews approaching Hammersmith Bridge

    At Hammersmith Bridge the advantage of the Surrey bend starts to come into play. Traditionally cox's aim for the second lampost from the left as they pass under the bridge.

    80% of crews ahead at Hammersmith go on to win.  It is at this point the cox on the Surrey station can steer a course to capitalise on the advantage of their advantage, trying to push the Middlesex crew as wide as the Umpire will allow.

    The record to this point is held by Cambridge (1998), 6mins 20sec.

    In the 2014 BNY Mellon Boat Race, Oxford led at Hammersmith
  • Detail map of the Surrey bend
    Detail map of the Surrey bend

    The Surrey bend, with its apex just past Hammersmith Bridge, often plays a crucial role in the outcome of the race.

    The crew drawn on the Surrey station will try to ensure they are still in contention so they can put in a push as they take the shorter route on the inside of the bend, this push can be decisive.

    Conversely the crew on Middlesex will try and stay in contention on the outside of the bend. As the bend runs out their own push can break their opponents.

  • Chiswick Eyot
    Chiswick Eyot

    Pronounced eight, Chiswick Eyot is a small uninhabited island, formerly used for growing osiers (a type of Salix or Willow used for basket making), it is now a nature reserve.

    The river is very briefly straight here and as a result can be exposed to some rough conditions - such as The Boat Race in 2006. Often one crew will make their decisive move as they approach the island.

    The 2013 BNY Mellon Boat Race crews race towards Chiswick Eyot in the background
  • Chiswick Steps
    Chiswick Steps

    Chiswick Steps themselves are a small set of concrete steps leading to the shore on the Surrey bank past Chiswick Eyot. They are normally underwater during the Boat Race as the race is rowed shortly before high tide.

    By this stage the Surrey bend has run out and the final bend in favour of the crew on Middlesex is just about to begin.

    The record to this point is held by Cambridge (1998), 9mins 56sec.

    Although over 10 minutes into the race, the crews from the 2012 Boat Race remained indistinguishable through each timing marker to this point, reaching Chiswick Steps in 10mins 23sec.  Cambridge went on to win the race from the Surrey station.

    The 2009 crews on their way to Barnes Bridge, having just passed Chiswick Steps
  • Detail map of the finish
    Detail map of the finish

    Towards the finish of the race the final Middlesex, bend comes in to play. If the crews are still close this is the time for the crew on Middlesex to put in a push, they have the advantage and often better water.

    However if the crew on Surrey can stay in touch through Barnes Bridge there is a real opportunity wear down a Middlesex crew that would be expected to win on the inside of the bend.

  • Barnes Bridge
    Barnes Bridge

    Completed in 1895, Barnes Bridge is now a Grade II listed structure.

    Crews are required to pass through the centre arch. Only one boat has won since 1945 when trailing at Barnes Bridge: Oxford came from behind this late in 2002.

    The Barnes Bridge corner is very tight: if both crews are level, as in 2003, this is a real test for the coxes.

    The record at this point is held by Cambridge (1998), 13mins 32sec.

    The 2013 BNY Mellon Boat Race heads under Barnes Bridge
  • The Finish
    The Finish

    The finish is just before Chiswick Bridge, marked by a small plinth on the Surrey bank and a post in the river on the Middlesex side painted in the University's colours.

    Chiswick Bridge was opened by the Prince of Wales in 1933.

    After months of training, if not years, it is here that the winners express their joy and the losers their despair.

    The record is held by the 1998 Cambridge crew who completed the course in 16mins 19sec.  The time however means little when considered against the result of the day: won or lost.

    The two exhausted crews reach the finish in the 2010 race