The Doggett’s Coat and Badge Rowing Race on the Thames on 25th July 2017 saw young Watermen apprentices contest the sculling race for the Doggett’s Coat & Badge. The winner was Jack Keech who completed the 7,400 metre row in 25mins 10 Secs. The race is a 303 year tradition celebrating social history whilst also being the oldest continually run annual sporting event in the world.
I was on the Thames to watch the race from a boat, kindly invited by the Master and Mistress Distiller, along with other Livery Masters.
The historic race is steeped in Pageantry; the winner receives Doggett’s famous scarlet Coat and Badge outfit, a regular sight in city events and beyond.
Each year, up to six watermen who have recently completed their river apprenticeships take part in the race, which has been held on the River Thames each year since it was founded in 1715 to commemorate King George I's accession to the throne.
This year the four contestants were first timer Jack Keech, 22, from Hextable; George McCarthy, 22, from Welling; Alfie Anderson, 22, from Hammersmith and Perry Flynn, 24, from London Kennington.
Throughout its 300 year history the race has remained relatively unchanged. However until 1873, competitors rowed against the tide using four-seater passenger wherries and there are stories of the race taking over two hours to complete. Since then the race has been rowed with the tide and the passenger wherries have been replaced by modern sculling boats.
The time now taken to complete the course is between 25 to 30 minutes and in 1973 Bobby Prentice, now Bargemaster to the Fishmongers' Company and Upper Warden of the Company of Watermen and Lightermen, set the fastest recorded time of 23 minute 22 seconds.
Robert Prentice, Company Barge Master, Queen’s Waterman and record holder as the fastest ever Doggett’s winner and umpire at this year’s race said, “It’s a wonderfully exciting race steeped full of history. The four boys have been preparing hard all year and this is their chance to join one of the most iconic group of sportsmen in the world, a Doggett’s man.”
The race, sponsored by Tideway, Harold Pinchbeck and Oarsport started at London Bridge and finished in Chelsea. Presenting the Winner their prize was Heather Stanning, double Olympic, World and previously European Champion rower.