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Boat Race 2021 floats to Great Ouse for unique, unpredictable edition

Since 1845 the Boat Race has been staged between Putney and Mortlake but this year finds itself in rural Cambridgeshire

It is the most traditional, idiosyncratic, and curiously popular event in the British sporting calendar. But this year the Boat Race, which has been staged on a four-mile-and-374-yard stretch of the Thames between Putney and Mortlake since 1845, has been forced to tear up the script. The result, say organisers, is one of the more intriguing – and unpredictable races – in its long history.

Because of the pandemic and the closure of Hammersmith Bridge, both men’s and women’s races have been decamped nearly 90 miles to the Great Ouse in rural Cambridgeshire, where they will be run on a shorter and straighter three-mile course between Ely and Littleport. And instead of being accompanied by the shouts and cries of 250,000 fans scrunched along the Thames, all the Oxford and Cambridge crews will hear will be the splash of oar on water as the event is closed to the public. Anyone trying to sneak in to watch faces a £200 fine.

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