The Course

  • The Championship Course, Putney to Mortlake
    The Championship Course, Putney to Mortlake

    The Boat Race course, known as the Championship Course is 4 miles, 374 yards or 6.8 Km long. It stretches between Putney and Mortlake on the River Thames in South West London.

    This course was first used for the Boat Race in 1845 and has been used for every race since, (apart from 1846, 1856 and 1863 when the race was held in the opposite direction between Mortlake and Putney).

    The Fulham/Chiswick side of the course is known as the Middlesex side. The Putney/Barnes side of the course is known as the Surrey side.

    The race is rowed upstream, but is timed to start on the incoming flood tide, usually an hour before high tide, so that the crews are rowing with the fastest possible current.

  • The University Stone
    The University Stone

    The University Stone is set into the towpath on Putney Embankment a few metres below Putney Bridge.

    The race starts from two stake boats moored so that the competitors' bows are in line with the University Stone.

    There is an equivalent stone set into the bank,  adjacent to The Ship pub in Mortlake, at the finish of the race.

    The University Stone at Putney
  • Detail map of the start
    Detail map of the start

    Before the race the umpire will toss a coin, an 1829 gold sovereign, to decide which side or station the crews will row on. The challenger (the President of the losing club from the previous year), will call heads or tails.

    The choice of stations can prove decisive. The President's decision will be based on the day's weather conditions and the advantage he thinks his crew can gain from either the Middlesex or Surrey bends.

    The first and final bends give an advantage to the crew on the Middlesex station, while the long middle bend favours Surrey. Surrey has recently proven most popular with the toss winners, chosen in 15 of the last 20 races, although in the long history of the race the winners have been evenly spread.

  • Crews race off the start at Putney
    Crews race off the start at Putney

    The two crews line up for the start of the race below Putney Bridge. 

    The crews warm up heading through the bridge towards Wandsworth before turning to move on to the stake boats. This version of the bridge was completed in 1886.

    The crews race past the boathouses and crowds in Putney in the 2014 BNY Mellon Boat Race
  • The Mile Post
    The Mile Post

    Times are recorded during the race at fixed points along the course. The first of these is The Mile Post, 1 mile from the University Stone at the start of the race.

    The plinth on the Surrey bank commemorates Cambridge 'Blue' & Tideway coach Steve Fairbairn. It was erected by members of Thames and London Rowing Club's in honour of Fairbairn's skills as a coach and his role in founding the Head of the River Race in 1926.

    The record to this point is held by Cambridge (1998), in a time of 3mins 33 sec.

    The plinth at The Mile Post commemorating Steve Fairbairn
  • Harrods Depository
    Harrods Depository

    A key landmark for crews and spectators alike, Harrods Depository was a furniture warehouse for the eponymous store. Converted into flats in the 1990's the building has a commanding position on the Surrey bank, just before the crews shoot Hammersmith Bridge.

    The Surrey bend is at its most advantageous here.

    The 2011 Boat Race crews passing Harrods Depository
  • Boat Race crews approaching Hammersmith Bridge
    Boat Race crews approaching Hammersmith Bridge

    At Hammersmith Bridge the advantage of the Surrey bend starts to come into play. Traditionally cox's aim for the second lampost from the left as they pass under the bridge.

    80% of crews ahead at Hammersmith go on to win.

    The record to this point is held by Cambridge (1998), 6mins 20sec.

    In the 2014 BNY Mellon Boat Race, Oxford led at Hammersmith
  • Detail map of the Surrey bend
    Detail map of the Surrey bend

    The Surrey bend, with its apex just past Hammersmith Bridge, often plays a crucial role in the outcome of the race.

    The crew drawn on the Surrey station will try to ensure they are still in contention so they can put in a push as they take the shorter route on the inside of the bend, this push can be decisive.

    Conversly the crew on Middlesex will try and stay in contention on the outside of the bend. As the bend runs out their own push can break their opponents.

  • Chiswick Eyot
    Chiswick Eyot

    Pronounced eight, Chiswick Eyot is a small uninhabited island, formerly used for growing osiers (a type of Salix or Willow used for basket making), it is now a nature reserve.

    The river is very briefly straight here. Often one crew will make their decisive move as they approach the island.

    The 2013 BNY Mellon Boat Race crews race towards Chiswick Eyot in the background
  • Chiswick Steps
    Chiswick Steps

    Chiswick Steps themselves are a small set of concrete steps leading to the shore on the Surrey bank past Chiswick Eyot. They are normally underwater during the Boat Race as the race is rowed shortly before high tide.

    By this stage the Surrey bend has run out and the final bend in favour of the crew on Middlesex is just about to begin.

    The record to this point is held by Cambridge (1998), 9mins 56sec.

    The 2009 crews on their way to Barnes Bridge, having just passed Chiswick Steps
  • Detail map of the finish
    Detail map of the finish

    Towards the finish of the race the final Middlesex, bend comes in to play. If the crews are still close this is the time for the crew on Middlesex to put in a push, they have the advantage and often better water.

    However if the crew on Surrey can stay in touch through Barnes Bridge there is a real opportunity to spring a surprise.

  • Barnes Bridge
    Barnes Bridge

    Completed in 1895, now a Grade II listed structure.

    Crews must pass through the centre arch. Only one boat has won since 1945 when trailing at Barnes Bridge: Oxford came from behind this late in 2002.

    The Barnes Bridge corner is very tight: if both crews are level, as in 2003, this is a real test for the coxes.

    The record at this point is held by Cambridge (1998), 13mins 32sec.

    The 2013 BNY Mellon Boat Race heads under Barnes Bridge
  • The Finish
    The Finish

    The finish is just before Chiswick Bridge. Marked by a small plinth on the Surrey bank and a post in the river on the Middlesex side painted in the University's colours.

    Chiswick Bridge was opened by the Prince of Wales in 1933.

    It is here where the winners express their joy and the losers their despair.

    The record is held by Cambridge (1998), 16mins 19sec. 

    The two exhausted crews reach the finish in the 2010 race