Courtesy of Tideway

The Future of Doggett's

Doggett’s Coat and Badge has been a race of resilience. Following the two World Wars, lost races were rowed back to back in 1920 and 1947. Doggett’s continues to be raced but some of the traditions have changed to ensure it remains relevant to the watermen of today. In 1988, entry qualification was extended to allow a person three attempts at the race, due to a decline in apprentices.


Sean Collins & Jude McGrane © Hydar Dewachi

Today, MBNA Thames Clippers are one of the biggest employers on the river. CEO Sean Collins, a third-generation waterman, started the company in an attempt to return the Thames to the thriving working river it once was.

“It was the emptiness of the river and the Docklands piers to the east of Tower Bridge, that inspired me to deliver the vision we have today.”

Sean’s father had won Doggett’s in 1957, with Sean following his success in 1990, while also rowing at international level. When he employed Jude McGrane as a young apprentice at Thames Clippers, a condition was that Jude would compete in Doggett’s. In 2007, he raced and won.

When starting Thames Clippers in 1999, Sean wanted to instil a positive culture on the river, deliberately pushing for greater diversity and gender equality. Starting with just one boat, his company now carries over four million passengers a year and continues to grow.

As Sean comments: “Things have come full circle on the Thames. This major artery of ours has got to play a role in London’s future heartbeat.”

Doggett’s Coat and Badge is a poignant reminder of the central role watermen continue to play in the life of the Thames.