There were hints here and there over the last few days but for many, the news that the Women’s Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge will gain parity with the men’s event in 2015 came as a shock when Rachel Quarrell’s story was published in the Telegraph on Wednesday morning.
A media conference at Somerset House provided an opportunity to get answers to some of the logistical questions. Much is still to be decided but in summary:
- From 2015, the women’s race will be run on the same day over the same course, moving from its current place at Henley-on-Thames, usually the weekend before the men’s event.
- New funding from asset management company BNY Mellon and its subsidiary Newton – under a five-year agreement – will bring equal funding to men and women from this year, without reducing the amount the men’s squads currently receive under the deal with Xchanging that expires this year.
- The three-year delay is to allow for an improvement in infrastructure and performance levels for the women’s boat clubs and to iron out logistical issues such as who boats from where, who races when and how the media gets to watch both.
- The men’s reserve race will remain as part of a triple bill but the women’s reserve race and the men’s and women’s lightweight events will remain in Henley.
- The BBC has committed to covering the races equally, although a contract has not yet been sealed with the broadcaster past 2014.
Matthew Pinsent made clear the task ahead for organisers when he said of the women’s clubs: “To this day one of the big attributes of someone in the squad is that they have their own car.”
Sir Matt expanded on this, and named two women – Anna Watkins and Natalie Redgrave – who could have featured more heavily in the Women’s Boat Race had parity been achieved earlier, in my blog entry for Hear the Boat Sing.
Here is a pick of the reaction on Twitter. So far, no one has raised a single objection. The main sentiment seems to be that it is amazing the change did not happen sooner.