Monday, 20 January 2020
A FORMER Olympian from Hurley is to become the first woman to umpire the Boat Race.
Sarah Winckless, a double world champion and Olympic medallist, will oversee the race between Oxford and Cambridge universities on the River Thames in London on March 29.
She previously officiated the women’s Boat Race in 2017 and umpired the reserve men’s race in 2016.
Winckless, 46, who is a Cambridge graduate, said: “To be the first female umpire in charge of the Boat Race is a real honour and responsibility.
“There are 10 rules so that makes what you need to do sound relatively simple. However, in the moment of competing on the course it could be a high-pressure situation.”
The rules state the crews must keep to their sides of the river unless they have a lead of “clear water”. Both crews must also row through the centre arches of two bridges where they often come perilously close to each other.
The umpire’s job is to try to ensure neither crew commits a “foul” by warning them to keep to their own racing line.
Winckless rowed for Great Britain at three Olympic Games and won a bronze medal in the double sculls in Athens in 2004 with Elise Laverick.
She was made an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2015 for services to sport and young people.
In 2016 she made history when she became the first woman to umpire a race at Henley Royal Regatta in its 177-year history.
She officiated Molesey Rowing Club’s B crew against Sydney Rowing Club in the heats of the Thames Cup on the opening day.
Winckless was elected a steward of the royal regatta in 2012 and joined its committee of management in December.
13 January 2020
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