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On a day when rowing history was made on the tidal Thames – the PLA had a vital part to play in keeping a world-famous racing route safe and sound. For the first time in more than 150 years, the women’s Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race was staged on the same day and course as the men’s event.

Millions watched from the riverside and on their televisions at home, as the long-standing rivals fought a pulsating battle. The week leading up to race day is always a busy one for our staff.

Marine river inspectors carefully check the 4.2-mile course from Putney to Mortlake, making sure it is clear of obstacles. Driftwood and litter are typical finds, but car wrecks and dead animals have also been recovered in the past.

A few days before the race, the all-important stake boat moorings must be painstakingly placed by PLA staff, ensuring they are to race officials’ liking.

On the big day, three launches patrol the course, with two temporarily closing the river to all traffic between Kew and Wandsworth bridges.

We also man race stake boats and two staff have the job of holding the stern steady of each university team’s boat, right before the off.

Deckhand Glenn Bradford did the honours on race day for two teams. He said: “Keeping your hands in the water for 10 minutes or so is cold, of course, and keeping the boats in line is hard too. But it’s a special race and a special day so we’re glad to be part of it.”

Deputy harbour master (Upper) Ryan Hall said working days leading up to the big race can stretch to 15 hours for some.

“We do a vital job during one of the biggest sporting occasions of the year. This year’s race was a great event as always. “Having the women’s race as well as the Oxbridge Watermen’s Challenge meant there were three races for us to work on, so it was a busy day. Our launch skippers and everyone else did a cracking job.”

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Port of London Authority, London River House, Royal Pier Road, Gravesend, Kent DA12 2BG. +44 (0) 1474 562200