Although not as well-known as the University Boat race, The Head of the River Race which is rowed annually in March from Mortlake to Putney is one of the largest rowing events in London with over 400 crews of eights taking part.
The Head of the River Race) was founded by Steve Fairbairn, a Cambridge and Tideway oarsman, It is rowed over the 4¼ mile Thames Championship Course from Mortlake to Putney (i.e. the Boat Race course in reverse) and is usually held on the third or fourth Saturday in March, depending on the tides.
The first race was held in 1926 when 21 crews took part , gradually the event originally for Tideway crews has grown and now attracts crews from all over the British Isles and overseas.
The largest non- British contingent is usually from Germany but, over the years, crews have come from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the USA.
The race is processional; that is, crews start one behind the other at 10-second intervals, the winner being the crew which returns the fastest time. The previous year’s winner starts first, followed by the other finishers in time order and then by new entries in alphabetical order within their classifications.
The average time taken for the course used to be between 19 and 20 minutes but this has gradually decreased and the record is now 16 minutes, 37.00 seconds, set by the Great Britain national crew in 1987.
The first overseas winners were the German Olympic gold medallists in 1993; they won again the following year and the Dutch national crew won in 1995.
The winning crew receives individual Fairbairn medals and category winners receive medals of a different design.
The “Head” is the first major national rowing event of the season and is viewed as both a competitive and social occasion.
The Head of the River Race will take place on Saturday 19th March at 13:30.
For more information, visit the HORR website here
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