Ely to host the world-famous Boat Race in 2021 after switch from the Thames

Ely will host the 2021 edition of the Boat Race after it was moved from the Thames. Picture: ADAM DAVY/PA

Ely will host the 2021 edition of the Boat Race after it was moved from the Thames. Picture: ADAM DAVY/PA - Credit: PA

Ely has been chosen as the host for the 2021 Boat Race – the second time it is has been the venue of the traditional and famous event.

The Cambridge University women's team training on the River Great Ouse at Ely in 2019. Picture: JOE GIDDENS/PA

The Cambridge University women's team training on the River Great Ouse at Ely in 2019. Picture: JOE GIDDENS/PA - Credit: PA

Organisers opted to switch the 166th running of the men’s race, as well as the 75th edition of the women’s event, from the Thames to the Great Ouse 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 men’s race between Oxford and Cambridge was previously run at Ely in 1944 when the war made it impossible to stage in London.

The Boat Race Company Limited is now working with the authorities to ensure a safe event for the community, crews, and coaches, as well as the volunteers and contractors helping to stage the races.

But they are still planning for there to be limited or no spectators in attendance.

Cambridge, including James Cracknell (second left), were the winners of the 2019 men's Boat Race. Picture: ADAM DAVY/PA

Cambridge, including James Cracknell (second left), were the winners of the 2019 men's Boat Race. Picture: ADAM DAVY/PA - Credit: PA


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George Gilbert, chair of the 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.

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“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.”

Each university’s squad have been training under strict COVID-19 guidelines laid down by British Rowing, university sports departments and the government.

Cambridge, including James Cracknell (second left), in action during the 2019 men's Boat Race. Picture: ADAM DAVY/PA

Cambridge, including James Cracknell (second left), in action during the 2019 men's Boat Race. Picture: ADAM DAVY/PA - Credit: PA

The crews were able to get two months on the water before the November restrictions kicked in, the athletes using rowing machines to continue their training and hunt for selection.

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