The Doggett’s Coat and Badge Wager, July 19, 2023…

… a rite of passage.
Almost lost on the wide stretch of river, three scullers make their way upstream towards Lambeth Bridge.
The annual Doggett’s Coat and Badge race this year saw three competitors rowing their boats in this tough challenge: Riess Ballard, Matthew Brookes and Emily Hickman.
The four mile, seven furlong route from London Bridge to Cadogan Pier, rowed on the flood tide, is a difficult course, with piers, obstacles, moored boats, bridges, and eddies around them to negotiate. Not forgetting the ever-changing caprices of the weather. It is a demanding test of contenders’ skills and knowledge of the Thames.
The Wager, set up by Thomas Doggett in 1715, is open to watermen and lightermen, aged between 21 and 27, in their first year of ‘freedom’, after completing their apprenticeship.* It is run by the Fishmongers’ Company and the Company of Watermen and Lightermen of the River Thames and is an important annual fixture highlighting the traditional culture and life of the river.

Safety rib carefully watching and ready to come to the rescue if needed

All three competitors belong to the well-known Poplar, Blackwall & District Rowing Club where they underwent their training. Apart from successfully nurturing talent for national and international events, the Club has produced many winners of the Doggett’s Coat and Badge Wager.

Matthew Brookes about to pass under Lambeth Bridge

Matthew Brookes joined CPBS, Capital Pleasure Boats, in 2015 when he was sixteen. Leading the race as he reached Lambeth Bridge, he had the misfortune to capsize in rough conditions further on and was swiftly rescued.

Livett’s ROMEO LIMA keeping eye on Riess Ballard
Riess Ballard coming up to Lambeth Bridge

Riess Ballard, a Captain at the Livett’s Group, was rowing steadily as he approached Lambeth Bridge and went on to win the race.

Emily Hickman approaching Lambeth Bridge

Emily Hickman is the daughter of Alex Hickman who sadly died in December 2020. He was much loved and appreciated for all that he did for the Thames river community and, as Training Officer for the Company of Watermen and Lightermen, he helped many young apprentices with their studies and practical training. For Emily, taking part in the Doggett’s Coat and Badge Wager must have been especially poignant, as memories of her father, who ‘bound’ her into the Company in 2018, and who back in 1996 had also taken part in the same race, would have been on her mind.

Emily Hickman is only the third woman to compete in the race. She came second. Clare Burran raced in 1992 coming third out of five, and Kate Saunders took part three times, coming third out of four in 2000.

Umpire Bobby Prentice and Assistant Umpire Kenny Dwan keeping a close eye on the race from the SARAHANNE
Port of London safety RIB
The press boat, with photographers capturing essential elements of the race
Following boats BOURNE, SARPEDON and ELIZABETHAN with HAVENGORE about to join the back end of the flotilla
M.V. SAPELE with followers and supporters
Thames Limo’s BOURNE with a party aboard
M.V. SARPEDON carrying followers and a party of supporters
The ELIZABETHAN with a party of supporters
The HAVENGORE with a party, including past winners of the Wager in their emblematic scarlet coats

The winner’s prize is the traditional scarlet coat, cap and silver badge, and Riess will be presented with his in November at a celebratory dinner in the Fishmonger’s Hall.

HAVENGORE flying the cypher of King Charles III
PLA vessel LAMBETH watching over the race

Challenge completed

Emily Hickman, Riess Ballard and Matthew Brookes, celebrating after their arduous race ©PLA

End note

Riess in training on Lambeth Reach

Quite by chance I spotted a lone sculler on Lambeth Reach a few days before the race, and later discovered that it was Riess, with time off work for a practice run. A while later, his boat safely stowed on Livett’s BRAVO LIMA GB, he was taken back downstream.

Riess being taken back downriver

Sources and further information
Account of this year’s Wager: The Company of Watermen & Lightermen of the River Thames
Article in Country Life by Martin Fone, August 6, 2022.
Article by Tim Koch in Hear the Boat Sing, July 22, 2023.
*The Doggett’s Coat and Badge Wager, 2021 article with details of the origin of the race and its history, July 11, 2021.
Thanks for information to Ben @liquid_highway1 and @ChrisLivett

Thames Pageant: ‘Coronation to Coronation’, July 19, 2023

The HAVENGORE leading the Coronation to Coronation flotilla, as the cutters stretch out between Hungerford and Westminster Bridges

On July 19th, the Doggett’s Coat and Badge Wager, the famous annual rowing competition on the Thames, founded in 1715 to celebrate the coronation of King George I, was this year preceded by a Pageant. A Pageant honouring the accession of King Charles III.
As Thames pageants go, this was on the modest size but interesting nonetheless, keeping up the tradition of ceremonial rowing on the river, adding importance and an extra festive feeling to the tough Doggett’s Coat and Badge challenge, which with images from my vantage point on Lambeth Bridge, I will feature in my next article.

The HAVENGORE initially leading the Coronation to Coronation flotilla

Assembling at Waterloo Bridge, the cutters of the Livery Companies taking part rowed the final section of the competition course, each flying a flag with the cypher of one of the twelve monarchs crowned since George I.
Having led the cutters to begin with, the HAVENGORE, flying the cypher of Charles III, moved across to the south side of the river allowing both the Pageant and the Doggett’s Coat and Badge race to pass.

The three leading cutters, JIM HOLT, BELLE FOUNDER and VITTORIA seen from Lambeth Bridge

The Livery Company cutters were not required, as they are on some occasions such as the Tudor Pull, to row with their full ceremonial regalia. But their team colours and flags brightened up the river as they headed upstream in an orderly procession.

JIM HOLT, flying the cypher of Elizabeth II, rowed by the Company of Watermen and Lightermen
The Worshipful Company of Founders’ cutter BELLE FOUNDER

Timing and co-ordination being all important, there was a short pause near Lambeth Bridge before the flotilla moved on.

VITTORIA, flying the cypher of Queen Victoria, rowed by the London Port Health Authority
Richmond Bridge Boat Club rowing cutter SARAH LISA
CENTURIAN, flying the cypher of GEORGE V, rowed by a mixture of Port Health Authority, Port of London Authority and Trinity House crews
Port of London’s PRISCILLA flying the cypher of Edward VII
BARBER’S CUTTER flying the cypher of George III
The Innholders Livery Company cutter, flying the cypher of George IV
The Company of Goldsmiths’ Thames cutter, with their patron saint St. Dunstan watching over the river from the prow
One of the RIBs filming from the side

Accompanying the cutters were ribs with film crews and safety boats ready to come to the rescue if needed.

WATER FORGET-ME-NOT, flying the cypher of George VI, rowed by the Company of Water Conservators
Livett’s BRAVO LIMA GB following the Pageant
The Cornish Gig, NEWQUAY, flying the cypher of George I, rowed by the Company of Chartered Architects
London Port Healthy Authority vessel LONDINIUM III
SANFONIA, acting as a safety boat as well as towing the Newquay Gig to and from Richmond.

My following article will be on this year’s Doggett’s Coat and Badge Wager, which followed the ‘Coronation to Coronation’ Pageant viewed from Lambeth Bridge on July 19. The three competitors Riess Ballard, Matthew Brookes and Emily Hickman took on this 309th challenge rowing the 7.4 kilometre course, established by Irish actor Thomas Doggett in 1715, between London Bridge and the Cadogan Pier in Chelsea.

Notes, Sources and further Information
Excellent article on Rowing on the River Thames.
To find out more about what’s happening on the Thames, see The Port of London Events Calendar
Thanks to Joe Lane for info. Follow him on Twitter @rowjoelane
All images ©Patricia Stoughton If anyone would like a copy. Let me know via Twitter @Tidal_Thames95