Youth Boat Race makes waves in inaugural competition on the Championship Course

Young rowers from local state schools took part in the competition, umpired by Sir Matthew Pinsent and Judith Packer


Credit: Row360

On Tuesday, 26 March, The Boat Race Fund and Fulham Reach BC collaborated in a first of its kind Youth Boat Race to provide opportunities for local children to participate in the magic of The Gemini Boat Race ahead of Saturday’s big race.

32 local children took to the water from seven local state schools. In attendance were the Gemini Boat Race official umpires, Sir Matthew Pinsent and Judith Packer, accompanied by the Mayor of Hammersmith and Fulham, Councillor Patricia Quigley who awarded the medals to all participants.

Funding for the Youth Boat Race 2024 was provided by The Boat Race Fund, which is run by the trustees of the Oxford and Cambridge Rowing Foundation. Chairman Jonny Searle commented: ‘“The event absolutely lived up to expectations – we have been really excited to work with the highly professional team at Fulham Reach Boat Club and to see so many young people become part of the Gemini Boat Race family was really inspirational.”

The event started with a traditional Umpires race briefing and coin toss for the crews to decide their stations. Both crews that won the toss chose Middlesex, the side closest to Fulham bank.

Olympic Gold Medallist Sir Matthew Pinsent said: “Fulham Reach BC do a fantastic job bringing more people into the sport, we’re always looking to drive more people into rowing, and the Youth Boat Race is a wonderful initiative bringing a new dynamic and new population to rowing. It’s all about camaraderie, teamwork, dedicating yourself, having fun and being with your mates. Yes, there’s racing and competition, and I’ve won four Olympic gold medals, but when I look back it’s the experiences and the people that stay with you years later.”

Youth Boat Race winners pictures with their coaches and umpires at Thames RC. Credit: Row360

Race one saw mixed crews from Kensington Aldridge Academy race Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School. Sir Matthew Pinsent aligned and started the race, with Cardinal Vaughan taking an early lead. Kensington Aldridge Academy were coxed by Tashi Spence, alumna of the school and Fulham Reach BC coach, who was looking to muster a big push to bring them back on to level terms but the crew were hampered by an oar coming loose, which meant they followed in second.

Race two saw mixed composite school crews from Sacred Heart High School, Hammersmith Academy, Fulham Boys School, West London Free School, Holland Park School and Kingston College. This was a close fought race all the way to the finish with the crew coxed by Sophie Wrightson, Junior World Champion Cox and Fulham Reach BC coach, just pipping it to the finish post.

Adam Freeman-Pask, CEO of Fulham Reach BC, added: “Some rowers had only picked up an oar in the last six weeks, so a fantastic achievement to be out racing and this will no doubt be a memorable and positive experience that will inspire them for years to come”

Post racing the crews were gratefully hosted by Thames RC, where supporters and representatives from across the sports sector such as World Rowing, Sport and Recreation Alliance, Port of London Authority, British Rowing, Love Rowing, gathered to celebrate the success of all the crews in taking to the water.

Siobhan Cassidy, Chair of the Boat Race Company Limited said afterwards: “The ambition was that The Youth Boat Race would inspire the young people competing and connect the Gemini Boat Race to the community in which it has lived for almost 200 years in a shared experience of race preparation and competition. It certainly achieved that.”

The Gemini Boat Race will take place on Saturday, 30 March 2024. Find the full crew list and watch guide here