Next year’s Boat Race will be moved from the River Thames for only the second time in its history, organisers announced this morning.
The 166th running of the men’s race and 75th women’s race had been scheduled to take place along its traditional London route on April 3 next year.
But safety fears over Hammersmith Bridge, which has been closed for 18 months, combined with coronavirus concerns over quarter-of-a-million spectators congregating along the riverbanks caused organisers to shift the race to the River Ouse instead.
It is the first time in 77 years that the Boat Race has been moved to a different location. In 1944, it also took part along the Ouse.
Announcing the shift to Ely, in Cambridgeshire, as its base, Dr George Gilbert, of the Boat Race Company Limited, 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 to not 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.”
Boat Race officials had grown increasingly concerned about the risk of becoming a super spreader of the coronavirus. In addition, Hammersmith Bridge has been closed for 18 months and there have been growing fears about the safety of boats passing underneath it.
Next year’s men’s and women’s races will be the first since 2019 after this year’s was called off because of the pandemic.