Female boat race rowers set to make a splash in Putney as new wave of women join boating sports

Women rowers will make waves in Putney as their teams’ race will get equal screen time, for the first time, in the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race this Saturday.

The ladies will take centre stage at 4.50pm when the race will be broadcast live on BBC1 an hour before the men’s event.

The timely recognition of the women’s race, who will also have equal sponsor funding, reflects that female participation in ‘any boating activity’ has been increasing since 2010, according to British Marine Federation figures.

Sally Hickey, a Thames RC rower from Wimbledon, said: “After the huge success of women’s rowing at London 2012, it’s brilliant that the women’s boat race is now on equal footing with the men’s.

“The women’s rowing scene in London is huge, and it’s been awesome to see the crews from Oxford and Cambridge training on the Tideway this week.

“Everyone is really excited to watch the girls battle it out!”

“It’s been awesome to see the crews from Oxford and Cambridge training on the Tideway this week!”

London Corinthian Sailing Club, specialising in dinghy and yacht sailing and racing, revealed that more than half of their 500 members are women.

The Hammersmith-based club recently held a ‘Fearless Female’ event to invite women to share how they got into the sport and to celebrate women in sailing.

Melisa Bunce, a spokeswoman from LCSC, said: “We do a lot of encourage female sailors in the club, our President is a woman and more than half of our members are women.

“Our female members have varying levels of experience from those just learning to sail dinghies on the river to competitive racers who have sailed with the GB squad or social weekend sailors, to experienced female skippers who have crossed Oceans.”

Ms Bunce said that boating sports are also very sociable, which is a key factor in attracting women to the sport.

“We have great female sailors and skippers in our club and we want to get more women to just have a go, to me that is the secret to getting into sailing or any sport, just taking the first step,” she said.

Although attitudes in society have changed dramatically since the women’s event began in the 1920s, rowing has not been without its share of sexism rows.

Olympic gold-medallist Katherine Grainger spoke out in 2012 when her male colleagues were awarded BMWs while the women, despite winning gold, were left empty handed.

She told Newsnight in 2012: “If we are talking about developing women’s sports at every level … then it needs to be seen as something that is valued and that female athletes are worthy of the results that they enjoy.”

However the Grande Dame of sports broadcast, Clare Balding, was optimistic about the future of women’s sports at an event in Wimbledon last year.

She said: “Businesses have a big impact and the boat race for the very first time will be men’s and women’s boat races on the tideway.

“This is because of Helena Morrissey of BNY Mellon saying ‘yes we’ll sponsor but we’ll only do it if you bring a women’s race here’.”

Picture courtesy of Liverpool Victoria Rowing Club, with thanks

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