1. Record-breaking History...
The Race for Doggett's Coat and Badge, started in 1715 and is the oldest continually competed sporting event in the world. The honour of winning is still incredibly prestigious, and steeped in tradition and rivalries. Winners perform many prestigious tasks including Royal duties.
2. The Inspiration...
The race was started by Thomas Doggett, then manager of Drury Lane Theatre. One stormy night in 1715, Doggett was rowed back to his home in Chelsea by a newly apprenticed waterman and was so impressed by his skills that he was inspired to start the race, open to young Thames watermen in the first year of ‘freedom’ from their apprenticeship. The prize, which still remains the same today, is a red coat embellished with a silver badge designed by Doggett himself. The race has been run since his death in 1722 by the Fishmongers Livery Company.
3. The First Race...
The first race was held in 1715 starting at The Swan pub in London Bridge, and ending at The Swan pub in Chelsea. Neither of these establishments exist anymore, but the starting points have remained the same to this day, and Doggett’s is still raced from London Bridge to Cadogan Pier in Chelsea.
4. Who are the Competitors...
The Race for Doggett's Coat and Badge is competed by Thames watermen and lightermen. Watermen are those who are licensed to drive passenger boats, and lightermen are licensed to drive cargo holding boats. While the watermen and lightermen’s trade has been in decline since the city’s bridges were built, and large containers were introduced to carry goods, businesses like the MBNA Thames Clippers still operate on the Thames today.
5. Drink Anyone?
There are two pubs in London named after the race; The Doggett's Coat and Badge pub on the southside of Blackfriar's Bridge and The Coat and Badge pub in Putney.
6. Pioneering Women...
Only two women have ever competed in Doggett's. 24-year old bank clerk Claire Hayes was the first to compete in 1992, finishing in third place. This did not lead to a surge of women competitors, however, with only one other female, Kate Saunders, competing in 1998, 1999 and 2000.
Photo of Claire Hayes, the first female Doggett's Race competitor, rowing on the Thames
7. Ain't No Stopping It...
So deeply ingrained and strong is the tradition of Doggett's, that extra races were held in 1920 and 1947 to make up for those missed out during the two World Wars. This year will mark the 304th race!
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