Published: 05/04/2017 By E. Finlay
The traditional rowing event between Oxford and Cambridge started in 1829. The river Thames course starts in Putney viewable from the bridge and Putney Embankment also from Bishops Park on the opposite bank or the Fulham side. Along the four and three quarter miles, the race passes many viewing points, pubs, residential homes & gardens, office blocks, parks and is accessible via the towpath. Finally ending just shy of Chiswick Bridge.
Putney is a great place to watch the event however your comfort is compromised by the overwhelming vast crowds due to the popularity of viewing the race as the two crews battle for an early lead. Unless you are connected to one of the boat clubs finding quick refreshments may be a challenge for the long queues.
The race heads West from Putney, the southern bank a shallow towpath sheltered by view spoiling trees is not as advantageous as the northern bank albeit equally shallow, it lacks the long tree line and is on the outside of the bend giving a much better vista. The Fulham to Hammersmith stretch passes several pubs and widens significantly a few hundred meters before Hammersmith Bridge. This is possibly the best view. No trees, a wide towpath and a large pub, aptly named The Blue Boat, coupled with a line of sight almost reaching the start to the midway point past Hammersmith Bridge.
Beyond Hammersmith Bridge the towpath narrows, passes more pubs on the north side with several small parks allowing breathing space. As the race moves along the banks of Chiswick and Barnes, the Chiswick side is blocked by Chiswick Eyot a small island. The twisting course limits the time you will get to watch as the boats appear from around the bend at Chiswick Pier. The southern side remains narrow and limited until past Barnes Bridge, from here the White Hart pub gives an excellent view during the dying, muscle burning, exhausting last few strokes to the finish.
I have watched the boat race for over 25 years and during that time I have run the course along both sides of the river giving me an intimate knowledge of every vantage point. If you want maximum exposure to the race, watching the armada growing in the distance, cascade past in the roar of the cheering crowds and disappear around the far reaching meander of the course, choose Hammersmith, the exact spot is directly outside the Blue Boat pub. Whether you are dark blue or light blue you can celebrate or commiserate over a cold drink in the hopefully glorious sunshine.
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