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Next year’s Boat Race between Cambridge and Oxford to be held on the Great Ouse at Ely

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Next year's Boat Race will take place on the Great Ouse at Ely. Picture: Rich Marsham
Next year's Boat Race will take place on the Great Ouse at Ely. Picture: Rich Marsham

Cambridge and Oxford will face each other in the Boat Race on the Great Ouse at Ely next year.

The 166th men’s and 75th women’s races will be staged off the Championship Course on the Tideway for a number of factors.

The decision to relocate was as a result of the challenge of planning a high-profile amateur event around continuing Covid-related restrictions, as well as uncertainty regarding the safety and navigation of Hammersmith Bridge, which has been closed for 18 months because of structural problems, and all river traffic was banned from going underneath it in August after larger cracks were discovered.

Dr George Gilbert, chair of the Boat Race Company Limited’s race and operations committee, said: “Everyone is facing significant challenges right now, especially students up and down the country.

“Organising sport safely and responsibly is our highest priority and moving The Boat Race to Ely in 2021 enables the event to go ahead in a secure environment.

“While we are sad not to be able to welcome the usual hundreds of thousands of spectators along the course, we will be inviting our communities and wider audience to get involved via our social media channels, and to enjoy the historic event on the BBC.”

After consultation with long-term partners in London, East Cambridge District Council and the Environment Agency, the decision was made to host the world famous races in Ely in April.

It will be on the stretch of the Great Ouse between Ely and Littleport - which is likely to be three miles, a mile shorter than the Putney to Mortlake course. The river has hosted the race before, during the Second World War in 1944 when Oxford won.

Plans are now being put in place with local authorities to ensure a safe event for all involved, including the local community, crews, coaches, volunteers and contractors.

The students have been training at home during the current lockdown, but have had two months on the water this Michaelmas Term.

Simon Harris, the chair of Cambridge University Boat Club’s rowing and management board, said: “We look forward to welcoming the Oxford University boat clubs to our new boathouse to prepare for and race the 2021 Boat Races at Ely.

“Our student athletes have continued to train hard and push themselves to achieve their own personal goals in incredibly difficult circumstances.

“Living in a small room with a computer and rowing ergometer for company is very different to the student life that I recall.

“Having taken the decision to race at Ely we can now focus our efforts in the knowledge that our boat clubs will get the opportunity to renew our rivalry and race in April.”

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