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The Race for Doggett’s Coat and Badge

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The Doggett’s Race is held each summer on the Thames, between London Bridge and Cadogan Pier, Chelsea - the sites of the Old Swan Tavern and the Swan Inn Chelsea. Up to 6 young watermen will row under eleven bridges on the 7,400 metre course. Few annual individual sporting contests in the world can match the continuous history of the Race for Doggett's Coat and Badge, which began in 1715.

The founder of the race, the Irish actor and comedian Thomas Doggett, was born in Dublin and moved to London in 1690 to pursue his career. In 1715 Doggett, a keen Whig, founded the prize of Doggett's Coat and Badge in honour of the House of Hanover, in commemoration of King George I's accession to the Throne on 1 August 1714. Doggett himself organised and managed the race each year until his death in 1721. To keep the Race alive, the executors of Doggett’s Will entered into a Deed with The Fishmongers' Company, which effectively passed the Trusteeship of the Race to the Fishmongers. In 1722 the Fishmongers' Company organised the race for the first time and has faithfully complied with Doggett’s Will ever since.

Throughout its 300 year history the race has remained relatively unchanged. However until 1873, competitors rowed against the tide using four-seater passenger wherries and there are stories of the race taking over two hours to complete. Since then the race has been rowed with the tide and the passenger wherries have been replaced by modern sculling boats. The time now taken to complete the course is between twenty five to thirty minutes, in 1973 Bobby Prentice, now Bargemaster to the Fishmongers' Company, set the fastest recorded time of twenty three minutes and twenty two seconds.