Ely hosts crews for first time ahead of world-famous Boat Race

Cambridge crew train on River Great Ouse at Ely ahead of Boat Race.

A crew from Cambridge University Boat Club training on the River Great Ouse at Ely for the first time ahead of this year's Boat Race. - Credit: Terry Harris

Ely played host to crews from Cambridge University Boat Club for the first time this year as they prepare for next month’s Boat Race. 

The Blue Boats took to the waters of the River Great Ouse on March 7 under strict Covid-19 guidelines from British Rowing and the Government. 

It is the first time that Cambridge have been able to train on water since lockdown restrictions were introduced in November. 

British Rowing said “a limited number of athletes” from Cambridge and Oxford crews, as well as Oxford University Women’s Boat Club, can train for the Race under the governing body’s elite sport exemption. 

Cambridge crew train on River Great Ouse at Ely ahead of Boat Race.

Crews from Cambridge University Boat Club have been allowed to return to training on the water under strict Covid-19 guidelines for elite sport. Here they are on the River Great Ouse at Ely. - Credit: Joe Giddens/PA

In a statement, British Rowing said: “A limited number of named athletes from Cambridge University Boat Club, Oxford University Boat Club and Oxford University Women’s Boat Club may now train only for The Boat Race as a number of these athletes are already included in British Rowing’s elite sport exemption for Elite Development Pathway programmes announced on February 5, 2021. 

“This agreement allows these named athletes to train on the water at designated locations following the appropriate Covid mitigations and safeguards.” 

The statement added: “As a result of this agreement, The Boat Race Company is continuing to plan for the Blue Boat Races to go ahead on Sunday, April 4.  

Cambridge crew train on River Great Ouse at Ely ahead of Boat Race.

It is the first time Cambridge University Boat Club have been allowed to train on water under strict Covid-19 guidelines. - Credit: Terry Harris

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“The Reserve Races, which normally take place alongside, have been postponed and will take place at Ely at a later date when inter-club competition is allowed in line with British Rowing competition guidance.” 

Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, each university’s squad have been training under strict guidelines laid down by British Rowing, university sports departments and the Government. 

The Boat Race Company Limited, who organise the event, switched the 166th running of the men’s race, as well as the 75th edition of the women’s event, from the Thames in London to the Great Ouse last November.

Cambridge crew train on River Great Ouse at Ely ahead of Boat Race.

A crew from Cambridge University Boat Club training on the River Great Ouse at Ely. - Credit: Terry Harris

 This was due to the challenges of “planning a high-profile amateur event around continuing Covid-related restrictions as well as uncertainty regarding the safety and navigation of Hammersmith Bridge”. 

The event will be covered live on the BBC and fans are encouraged to support the race from home. 

The men’s race between Oxford and Cambridge was previously run at Ely in 1944 when the war made it impossible to stage in London. 

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