The Boat Race – a contest between two of the Britain’s most elite and exclusive universities in a sport watched approximately twice a year that incomprehensibly gets six hours of TV coverage and the country head-to-tail throwing their arms in the air yelling “Up the stroke count!” – it’s certainly one of London’s more bizarre calendar dates. But if you are set on joining in the sporting oddity on Sunday 2 April, you better know where to watch. Here is a handy guide to the Boat Race 2017.
The Boat Race takes place on the river (duh), and some of the best spots for watching the contest unfold are the Thames’ crossing points. There are three main bridges featured throughout the course – Putney Bridge, Hammersmith Bridge and Barnes Bridge – and each offers a peerless view of the action. Putney Bridge sits just before the course’s start, and allows a perfect shot of the crews powering from the blocks. A fan favourite, Hammersmith Bridge resides just short of halfway and is a good station-point for assessing the contest before the boats turn for the all-important bend. And Barnes Bridge overlooks the finish and gives a great spectator view of the teams racing for the line. Readers be advised: all of these areas – and in particular Barnes Bridge – fill up very quickly. You will have to arrive seriously early to get a good location.
If you can’t find a spot on a bridge, perching riverside is an adequate alternative. Paths run along both sides of this stretch of the Thames and there are plenty of ample places to stand. Putney Embankment is a good location for watching the race’s early tussles, while Dukes Meadow runs along the course’s final stretch. Also look out for the Thames Reach, a wide pathway birth just before Hammersmith Bridge with lots of areas to get right up to the river’s edge. Designated spectators’ areas are also plotted throughout the 4-mile route. Bishop’s Park and Furnival Gardens usually have a large screen and plenty of food & drink’s stands. You can also watch the race from Craven Cottage Football Stadium. Fulham F.C’s home ground looks out over the starting blocks, and will be laying on lots of fun activities to get involved with – entrance is £12.
Like most sporting occasions, the Boat Race is best enjoyed with a beer in hand, and if this sounds like your style of spectatorship, there are plenty of pubs and bars dotted along the course for you to enjoy. The Crabtree has long been a favourite for the drinking viewer. This lively joint has a spacious veranda overlooking the Thames (as well as a cute beer garden) and serves great food and ales – arrive early as it will fill up quick. The Blue Anchor and The Rutland are also popular sites. You will have to depart from your outdoor benches to get a view of the crews, but it’s worth it for these classic English inns. Further along the north bank you can find The Dove, The Old Ship and The Black Lion – all great choices for a tipple before the race – and on the south bank nearing the finishing line is Ye White Hart, a stylish 17th century tavern with a gourmet menu.
There it is: the London Calling guide to watching the Boat Race. Whether you’re plugging for Oxford or Cambridge, or just looking for something to do Sunday 2 April, pick one of our options and you will be rowing yourself into calm waters.