Pinsent Hopes Boat Race Unification will Help Drive Female Success

February 9, 2012

Matthew Pinsent believes the ground-breaking decision to give the women’s Boat Race equal billing to the men’s event will help Britain develop future female Olympic champions.

The women’s race between Oxford and Cambridge Universities, which first took place in 1927, is currently held in Henley over a 2,000 metre course.

But from 2015 the race will be staged over the same four-and-a-quarter mile course and on the same day as the higher-profile men’s race, which attracts eight million television views and 300,000 people to the banks of the Thames.

Pinsent, whose god-daughter Natalie Redgrave rowed for Oxford last year, agreed with organisers the decision strikes a positive blow for equality in the sport.

Crucially, the men and women will now start to receive the same funding for the first time and the BBC have committed to showing both races in their entirety, to ensure complete parity between the two events.

“This is an important step for what is one of the pre-eminent rowing races and sporting fixtures in the world to provide step towards the Olympics,” said Pinsent, a four time Olympic champion and Oxford blue.

“There are lots of people I rowed with on the Olympic team who competed in the Boat Race, but for the women it is the exception.

“We want to create a progression. You will only see the fruits in 2020 and I am sure we will look back in two decades time and say ‘it was great that happened’.”

The Boat Race have announced a new sponsorship deal with investment company BNY Mellon, while their subsidiary Newton will continue to back the women’s race.

“There has been talk about this for as long as I can remember. Previously we haven’t had a sponsor for the women’s race of the stature to put it on a professional footing,” Pinsent said.

“The womens boat club currently don’t have nearly the same coaching or logistics infrastructure.

“They cycle to training, they have to buy their own kit, pay their own entry fees. The men are past that because they have a fantastic shop window in which they can advertise themselves.

“It has been a chicken and egg situation because the event in Henley has always been a distant cousin to the men’s race.

“Newton have provided a break in that catch-22 to say ‘we are interested in bringing women’s rowing to London’.

“It comes at a good time because there has been a lot of discussion about women in sport.”

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, chair of the commission on the Future of Women’s Sport, hailed the historic development as “a fabulous step forward in the evolution of women’s rowing”.

The next three women’s Boat Races will be held in Henley, allowing the boat clubs time to refine their training regimes for the move up to four and a quarter miles.

Organisers also need time to work out the logistics of staging and broadcasting an additional race from the Tideway.

by Ismail Uddin