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Boat Race 2021: All you need to know about start times, facts and Ely road and footpath closures

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Cambridge University Boat Club train for the 166th Men's Boat Race on the River Great Ouse in Ely. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cambridge University Boat Club train for the 166th Men's Boat Race on the River Great Ouse in Ely. Picture: Keith Heppell

Robert Gillespie hopes that the Gemini Boat Race on Easter Sunday can help mark a return to more normal times for the nation.

The event is being held on the Great Ouse in Ely because of a combination of the pandemic and repair work on Hammersmith Bridge.

But it is a closed event, with roads and footpaths to be shut along the route on Easter Sunday as a result of government restrictions. The public are being urged to watch on television.

“I think it is worth saying, the one obvious truth of the Boat Race is it appeals to and matters to a much bigger part of the British population than rowing in general does,” said Gillespie, the chairman of the Boat Race Company, who thanked East Cambridgeshire District Council and the safety advisory group, among others, for making the event possible in Ely,

“This year’s race may be different but it may be, in the minds of those watching, the most significant Boat Race they have ever seen because hopefully it does start the return to a final new normal.

“And for all the athletes taking part it will be different from that which almost all the other old Blues had, but it may be the most special.

“It is something that should be treasured and celebrated that these athletes have put in an extraordinarily unique effort to race.

“I greatly hope that at the end of this long dark winter, what April 4 produces is two wonderful races for the public to enjoy and two wonderful experiences that win or lose all the athletes and coaches who have put in so much effort to get us to this point richly deserve.”

George Gilbert, chair of the Boat Race organising committee, outlined the scale of hosting the event in Ely.

“Obviously, this has been an extremely challenging race to organise,” he said.

“ If you’d asked me a couple of years ago which would be the easier thing to put on, an event in central London on one of the busiest rivers in the world ensuring the safety of the quarter million spectators or a small, private event in a quiet corner of the country with no spectators at all, I would have given you a very different answer than today.

“A huge amount of work has gone into delivering the Gemini Boat Race 2021 safely to ensure that one of the most famous and recognisable sporting events in the world can go ahead in the middle of a pandemic.

“To ensure the safety of everyone involved I can’t emphasise enough the need to stay safe, stay away and watch the Gemini Boat Race 2021 live on the BBC.”

The following roads will be closed on Boat Race day (Easter Sunday, April 4), including pedestrian access:

  • Queen Adelaide Way, Ely – Station Road to Prickwillow Road
  • Old Bank, Prickwillow – Queen Adelaide to southern link road with Putney Hill Road
  • Thistle Corner, Ely – Monarch Way to Ely Road
  • Ely Road, Queen Adelaide – Thistle Corner to Queen Adelaide Way
  • Prickwillow Road, Queen Adelaide – Queen Adelaide Way to Ely Road
  • Ely Road, Prickwillow – Prickwillow Road to Main Street
  • Padnal Bank, Queen Adelaide – Prickwillow Road to Branch Bank
  • Branch Bank, Littleport – Padnal Bank to New River Bank
  • New River Bank, Littleport – Branch Bank to Lynn Road
  • Victoria Street, Littleport – Padnal to Branch Bank
  • Hawkins Road, Littleport – Branch Bank to Cross Drove
  • Cross Drove, Littleport – Hawkins Drove to Mildenhall Road

The following footpath numbers will also be closed:

  • West Bank along the River Ouse (north to south) – Ely footpath Nos 49 and 50, and Littleport footpath No 11.
  • West Bank – Ely footpath 15 and Littleport footpath 21.
  • East Bank (north to south) – Ely footpaths 15 and 16, Littleport footpath 22.
  • Queen Adelaide (Prickwillow Road to Station Road – Ely footpath 13 and 43.

The restrictions are in place on Sunday, April 4 from 12pm to 6.30pm. A prohibition notice or fixed penalty notice can be given to anyone not adhering to the closures.

The BBC programme starts at 3pm, with the 75th Women's Boat Race starting at 3.50pm, and the 166th Men's Boat Race beginning at 4.50pm.

The Boat Race at Ely

  • The Men’s Boat Race has been held in Ely once before, in 1944, which was the third War time Boat Race.
  • It was raced over a 1.5-mile course, finishing just before the Queen Adelaide Bridge in Ely, and was won by Oxford by three-quarters of a length.
  • The 2021 Boat Races will start where the 1944 race finished.
  • This year, the crews will be racing for 4.89km – just over three miles – from just north of the Prickwillow Road bridge to just before the Victoria Street bridge in Littleport.
  • The start will be in line with the plaque on the East road side of the riverbank pathway, denoting the finish of the 1944 Boat Race.
  • The finish line will be located just south of Victoria Road, marked on the bank of the river in line with the middle point of the stairs on the West (railway side) riverbank.
  • The coxes will be approximately 13.5m apart on the start line.
  • The blades will be approximately 6m apart.

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