Cambridge winning one of their 84 Boat Race victoriessheffdave

This year’s Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race will be held on the Great Ouse at Ely rather than its normal location in London.

The decision, taken by the Boat Race Company Limited (BRCL), reflects the challenge “of planning a high-profile amateur event around continuing Covid related restrictions as well as uncertainty regarding the safety and navigation of Hammersmith Bridge,” a press release detailed.

BRCL revealed in the press release that the decision was taken after consultation with long-term partners in London, East Cambridge District Council, and the Environment Agency. They said they “are delighted to have strong local support, enabling us to hold the world-famous races in Ely.”

The Men’s Boat Race has previously been run once at Ely, in 1944, when the war made it impossible to stage in London.

BRCL is now working with local authorities to ensure a safe event for the local community, crews, and coaches, as well as the volunteers and contractors helping to stage the races.

Dr George Gilbert, Chair of BRCL’s Race and Operations Committee: "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 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."

The race, to be held in April of next year, will see the 166th Men’s and the 75th Women’s boat races.

Athletes preparing for the Boat Race have been training under the Covid-19 guidelines laid down by British Rowing, University sports departments and the Government.

The crews had two months on the water before the November lockdown was announced. They have since had to begin training at home on rowing machines.

The annual Oxford-Cambridge University Boat Race was first raced in 1829 and is now one of the world’s oldest and most famous amateur sporting events.

Cambridge has won the men's race 84 times and Oxford 80 times, with one dead heat. In the women's race, Cambridge has won the race 44 times and Oxford 30 times. Cambridge has led Oxford in cumulative wins since 1966. 

Last year the race was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but Cambridge won the race in the two previous years.