Chaos on River as Ten Boats Sink

Gusty conditions cause abandonment of Head of River Race

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The 2007 Head of the River Race ended in chaos after gusty conditions led to the sinking of at least ten boats.

The massive flotilla of 420 eights was to race between Chiswick Bridge and Putney. Crews were having difficulty getting to the start point but the decision was made to proceed and the top crews in the processional race made off. It soon became evident that the conditions were unsuitable and the decision was made to call off the race after 50 boats had already departed.

This led to chaotic scenes at the start point with crews heading in different directions and reportedly ignoring the instructions of marshalls. It is understood that all the crews eventually returned safely to dry land.

At least four crews were landed at Chiswick Pier, run by local charity, the Chiswick Pier Trust. Trust members swung into action and quickly organised a team to bring around 40 crew members into the Pier House, to warm up and be assessed by Ambulance Service paramedics for hypothermia. Boat residents living on the Pier supplied piles of towels and hot drinks.

The event is a race for eights rowed over the same course at the University Boat Race but in reverse. There are up to 420 crews and involves some 3,750 competitors, believed to be a record number for a single continuous rowing event.

The first race was held in 1926 and 21 crews took part and has taken place nearly every year since apart from the war years.

The previous year's winning crew starts first, followed at 10-second intervals by the other crews in finishing order, and then by new entries in alphabetical order. The race takes approximately 1.5 hours from the first crew starting to the last crew finishing. The record time for the course is 16mins 37secs set in 1989 by the British National Squad.

The Race is usually held on the third or fourth Saturday in March each year, depending on tides and the date of the Boat Race. Usually the two events are held on separate days, although in 1987 and 1994, the Boat Race took place in the morning and the HORR in afternoon.

April 6, 2007