Today should have been the 2020 Doggett’s Coat and Badge Wager – a gruelling 7400 metre course, unchanged since its inception in 1715. Sadly, the race has been postponed for only the second time in its history as a result of coronavirus. But training has started again! We have three oarsmen already confirmed for the 2020 Wager, which will now be held on 16 March 2021. James Berry, one of the competitors, who came second in last year’s race is interviewed below.
How long have you been rowing, and what made you start?
I’ve been rowing since 2018, and I started because I wanted to compete in the Doggett’s Coat and Badge Wager.
You raced in last year’s wager – how was it?
The conditions were awful, which made it a really tough race. I had to just stay focused, and keep pushing. I wasn’t worried that I wasn’t ahead from the start – I knew I had a strong second half of the race, and there were a couple of points where I really felt I could have overtaken Patrick. In the end I came second – I’m proud of that race, but I will do better this time.
How are you feeling about the 2020 year’s wager?
I’m really excited – I want to win! I’m obviously gutted it has had to be postponed, but it’s great to have a date set for next March.
How tough has it been to train this year?
It has been hard – especially trying to keep motivated when we couldn’t get out on the water. I bought a rowing machine so I could keep training, but I’m really pleased to be back in a boat now, and have coaching allowed again.
How do you balance training with work and everything else?
It’s tough, but my priority right now is rowing. I want to win the Wager for myself, and to create a legacy for my family. And you only get a few chances.
And to finish – a few quick fire, fun questions:
What’s your favourite stretch of the river?
The championship course.
In you could have one superpower, what would it be?
What’s top of your bucket list?
I’d like to stay in a glass igloo in Norway and see the northern lights.
Keep an eye out for interviews with our other competitors in the coming months. And in the meantime, if you want to learn more about the Doggett’s Coat and Badge Wager, visit our pages, or the Thames Festival Trust website for a documentary and aural histories.