Boat Race 2021: Police keep spectators away

Police Prepare to close roads around the start line for the Cambridge v Oxford Boat Race 2021,
Great

Police Prepare to close roads around the start line for the Cambridge v Oxford Boat Race 2021, Great River Ouse, Ely Sunday 04 April 2021. Picture by Terry Harris. - Credit: © Terry Harris

Police are out in Ely and Littleport today – ahead of the Boat Race – to ensure the ‘stay home and watch it on BBC’ is observed.  

The event is spectator free and was switched to Ely because of the pandemic.  

Police Prepare to close roads around the start line for the Cambridge v Oxford Boat Race 2021,
Great

Police Prepare to close roads around the start line for the Cambridge v Oxford Boat Race 2021, Great River Ouse, Ely Sunday 04 April 2021. Picture by Terry Harris. - Credit: © Terry Harris

Ely was chosen for various reasons, including its remoteness and lack of infrastructure where possible spectators could congregate.  

The Boat Race won classification as an elite sport to ensure it could go ahead in the latter stages of the Covid-19 pandemic.  

Coinciding with Easter Sunday, it also means traffic is lighter today as major supermarkets are obliged to close.  

Police Prepare to close roads around the start line for the Cambridge v Oxford Boat Race 2021,
Great

Police Prepare to close roads around the start line for the Cambridge v Oxford Boat Race 2021, Great River Ouse, Ely Sunday 04 April 2021. Picture by Terry Harris. - Credit: © Terry Harris


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Ten footpaths and 12 nearby roads are to be closed for the Boat Race in Ely – with the county council threatening “consequences” for any breaches.  

Legislation has been enacted by Cambridgeshire County Council ahead of the event.   

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An order, signed by chief executive Gillian Beasley, lists the footpaths and road closures subject to the exclusion order.  

Police Prepare to close roads around the start line for the Cambridge v Oxford Boat Race 2021,
Great

Police Prepare to close roads around the start line for the Cambridge v Oxford Boat Race 2021, Great River Ouse, Ely Sunday 04 April 2021. Picture by Terry Harris. - Credit: © Terry Harris

She says that the order is “necessary for the purpose of preventing, protecting against, controlling or providing a public health response” against the threat of coronavirus.  

Ms Beasley says the closures “are a proportionate means of achieving that purpose”. 

The chief executive says action has been taken on the basis that The Boat Race, which will start on the River Ouse in Ely and finish in Littleport, has been designated an Elite race. 

Police Prepare to close roads around the start line for the Cambridge v Oxford Boat Race 2021,
Great

Police Prepare to close roads around the start line for the Cambridge v Oxford Boat Race 2021, Great River Ouse, Ely Sunday 04 April 2021. Picture by Terry Harris. - Credit: © Terry Harris

That means as a prerequisite of the return to domestic competition, it must take place behind closed doors with no spectators.  

The distance of the course is 4.89 km (3.04 miles) and there are public footpaths on each side of the river. 

Branch Bank road that runs the length of the river on which the race is to take place, will be off limits for both pedestrians and motorists. 

"Historically, says the chief executive, The Boat Race attracts large crowds of an estimated 250,000 at the river side when it takes place on the Thames. 

Police Prepare to close roads around the start line for the Cambridge v Oxford Boat Race 2021,
Great

Police Prepare to close roads around the start line for the Cambridge v Oxford Boat Race 2021, Great River Ouse, Ely Sunday 04 April 2021. Picture by Terry Harris. - Credit: © Terry Harris

But this year is different and event will be closed, with the event shown only on the BBC.  

Ms Beasley warns that “there may be consequences if this direction is not complied with” 

Anyone breaking the restrictions – either by using a footpath or trying to drive down a closed street – could be stung on “summary conviction by an unlimited fine”. 

Not everyone is happy with the restrictions being put in place.  

Editor of community magazine Lyn Gibb de Swarte said she had spoken to a number of the local residents.  

Police Prepare to close roads around the start line for the Cambridge v Oxford Boat Race 2021,
Great

Police Prepare to close roads around the start line for the Cambridge v Oxford Boat Race 2021, Great River Ouse, Ely Sunday 04 April 2021. Picture by Terry Harris. - Credit: © Terry Harris

“Some are disgruntled, others muttering along the lines of ‘haven't they heard of the Littleport Riots?’”. 

 (The riots took place in 1816 over unemployment and demands for a minimum wage: rioters were rounded up, five were hanged).  

East Cambridgeshire District Council has put up closure notices and posted signs along the route of The Boat Race telling residents to stay at home and watch it on the television.  The council says it will also be deploying its own Covid ‘marshals’ in the centre of Ely on the day of the race - “to safely engage with and support residents”. 

Police Prepare to close roads around the start line for the Cambridge v Oxford Boat Race 2021,
Great

Police Prepare to close roads around the start line for the Cambridge v Oxford Boat Race 2021, Great River Ouse, Ely Sunday 04 April 2021. Picture by Terry Harris. - Credit: © Terry Harris

Council leader Anna Bailey said: “The Boat Race is closed to the public. 

“The best place to watch the events unfold is from the comfort and safety of your own homes on television.” 

She said: “After many months of organisation, we had hoped that by the time The Boat Race was upon us we would be welcoming people to enjoy the event in person.  

“Sadly, this is not possible, but the safety of residents and the people involved is paramount and the roads, footpaths and the river in the area will be closed to public access.” 

One resident said: “I will have a ladder and scaffolding up so I can see it from my garden.... let them try and stop me!  

“The other point is that I run my business from home and I get called out from time to time......let them stop me! 

Another suggested: “If you want to watch the race, it’s simple, if you have a dog, get yourself a long stick and paint it white, take dog and stick. 

“If you get stopped and they tell you there are signs saying the bridge and river bank is closed, just say “sorry but I haven't managed to teach my guide dog to read yet” 

A third said: “It's about time people stop letting Covid officers and the like ruin everyone else's fun.  

“We are quite capable of acting sensibly on a river bank keeping distance from each other.” 

Boat Race organisers have sent letters out to hundreds of local residents explaining the reasoning behind the decision to ask for road and path closures.  

They have also promised residents that if they need access on the day this can be arranged by prior notice.  

Their email says: “It is a fantastic opportunity to be hosting the races in Ely and we hope that you share this excitement. 

“However, we must urge you to stay away from the event, to avoid putting your safety and the safety of others at risk, and ultimately jeopardising the event.” 

Footpaths closures along the River Ouse 

Location: adjoining West Bank 

(North to South) 

Littleport footpath 11 

Ely footpath 50 

Ely footpath 49 

Location: West Bank 

Police Prepare to close roads around the start line for the Cambridge v Oxford Boat Race 2021,
Great

Police Prepare to close roads around the start line for the Cambridge v Oxford Boat Race 2021, Great River Ouse, Ely Sunday 04 April 2021. Picture by Terry Harris. - Credit: © Terry Harris

Ely Footpath 15  

Location - East Bank (North to South)  

Littleport Footpath 22  

Ely Footpath 16 

ELY Footpath 15 

Location – Queen Adelaide (Prickwillow Road to Station Road)  

Ely Footpath 13  

Ely Footpath 43 

Road Closures to include 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 





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