House of Lords v House of Commons boat race
As befits such an auspicious occasion, a traditional wooden shallop, propelled by oarsmen in the ceremonial red coats of the Company of Watermen and Lightermen, rowed up the Thames on Thursday 17th July to open the Parliamentary Boat Race. Its stately progress interrupted for a moment as a crab was, with rather less ceremony, caught just below the terrace of the House of Lords.
London Youth Rowing had better fortune and gave a fine display of sculling in a race between two London based crews. The young rowers were school children drawn from Globe Rowing Club/Trafalgar Rowing Centre in Greenwich, from the Barn Elms Rowing Centre, Lea Rowing Club and the Royal Docks Rowing Club. Although the weather remained fair, the water along this stretch of the Thames was challenging and the two crews who don’t normally row together performed extremely well.
Tideway Scullers School veterans beat Vesta Rowing Club veterans, pressing ahead at the end of the race to win by one length. Vesta Rowing Club’s ladies’ crew fared better in the next event and won the Elite 8s race against Thames Rowing Club.
The main event – the House of Lords versus the House of Commons was hotly contested. The latter was a novice crew racing a more experienced House of Lords line-up but they put up an impressive challenge, pushing the Lords to the line in an exciting finish – a close call that inspired loud support from the terrace.
Lord Thomas of Gresford, clearly delighted with the Lords’ success, thanked Siemens for their work in raising the profile of sport and Alan Foster of London Rowing Club for his help in staging the race. He also thanked all the clubs and the Port of London Authority for their input. He said that rowing had the highest profile of any British sport at the moment and gave his very best wishes to the British Olympic and Paralympic teams in Beijing next month.
Di Ellis, ARA Chairman, thanked Lord Thomas and the All Party Parliamentary Rowing Group for their support and for providing the opportunity to showcase rowing. She thanked the clubs and the Company of Watermen and Lightermen for taking part and congratulated the Lords for overturning the previous year’s results. She said she was full of admiration for the Commons’ crew, having been told some members hadn’t wielded an oar before. She also thanked Siemens for hosting the event and for their tremendous input to rowing in the lead up to the Olympics and Paralympics.
Andreas Goss, Chief Executive of Siemens UK, said he was proud that Siemens was supporting GB rowing, despite being German himself! As well as the GB teams the company also contributed to the World Class Start and High Performance programmes running in clubs across the country. On behalf of Siemens plc he presented a cheque for £2,500 to the Philip Henman Foundaton, a charity dedicated to training young people for a career on the Thames, and £2,500 to The Stroke Association.
The House of Commons are already plotting their revenge so next year’s race promises to be equally exciting!