All you need to know about the Carrow Cup - which will see 70 boats take over the River Wensum tomorrow

Rowers on the Wensum during the long and short course races for the historic Carrow Cup. Photo: Steve Adams

Around 70 boats will take to the River Wensum in Norwich city centre for the historic Carrow Cup boat race on Saturday.

Organisers are celebrating the event's 200th anniversary since it became an annual race, although there is evidence of races stretching as far back as 1803.

Starting from Pulls Ferry, off Riverside Road, the race will take participants through the Riverside complex, past Norwich City's Carrow Road stadium, the Colmans factory and finishing at the Thorpe rail bridge.

Nick Francis, chairman of Norwich Rowing Club, said: 'This is a momentous occasion for Norwich Rowing Club. We have hosted this event over 200 years and we are actually celebrating the bicentennial anniversary of the trophy itself.

'The Carrow Cup is believed to be the oldest rowing trophy in the country. To celebrate this fact we have invited traditional rowing boats from around the country to take part and get involved as a bit of nostalgia.

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'There are some excellent spectator points at the various road and foot bridges along the first half of the course and we would like to encourage spectators to cheer on our sportsmen and women as they make their way to the finish line.'

As well as the 54 modern fine boats competing, spectators will have the rare opportunity to see 15 other traditional boat types such as harkers, gigs, skiffs and galleys brought in from around the UK to race in their own class on the day.

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The first race starts at 9.30am, the second at 9.45am, with a special traditional boat race starting at 11.30am going along the same 3,200 metre course, and a final race at 1.30pm.

The Norwich Society and the Wensum River Parkway Partnership are marking the 200th Anniversary of the Carrow Cup race, by presenting a special trophy to Norwich Rowing Club.

The Carrow Bi-Centenary Cup will be given annually to the winner of the traditional boat race which is an increasingly popular part of the club's December Carrow Cup Rowing Festival.

The Carrow Cup is the second oldest rowing prize in England, the oldest being the annual Doggett's Coat and Badge Race on the Thames.

Norwich's event pre-dates the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, which proclaims itself one of the oldest sporting events in the world, by 39 years.

Mary Ash, chairman of the Norwich Society, will present the new trophy for the first time during the awards ceremony at Norwich Rowing Club on Saturday at the conclusion of this year's Festival.

She said: 'The Norwich Society is delighted to be involved in an event that brings the Wensum to life and in supporting this 200th anniversary of the Carrow Cup Race.

'We think our new trophy is eye-catching and unusual – just right for the winning team to fill with champagne and drink deep!'

Alec Hartley, chairman of the Wensum River Parkway Partnership, added: 'Apart from its historic significance, the annual Carrow Cup Rowing Festival is one of a growing number of events during the year that are increasingly bringing life, excitement and enjoyment back to the River Wensum in Norwich.

'Since the Wensum River Parkway Partnership was formed expressly to encourage this, we are delighted to support the Norwich Society in presenting the Bi-Centenary Cup.'

How race trophy returned from Down Under

Although there were earlier races than the 1813 Carrow Cup, this unique little cup deserves a mention all on its own as it inspired research into the early roots of Norwich rowing, writes Alan Wells.

Outside of the Dogget's Coat and Badge Races for London Watermen it is believed to be the oldest rowing trophy in this country.

In 1948 following the devastation of the second world war there was an Olympic Regatta held on the Henley Reach. To support the event a 'rowing museum' was hastily created at Henley [The Drill Hall] where rowing memorabilia from this and other countries was exhibited.

The Australian rowing team, in support of this and having a suspicion that a cup they held was British, produced an 1813 trophy engraved 'Carrow Cup – 2nd Rowing Match' which was held by the Victoria Rowing Association in Melbourne and was used as a pairs trophy.

All this was described in The Times newspaper, where a member of the Norwich Rowing Committee noticed the word Carrow on one of the trophies.

He subsequently traced back an account of this race via the old Norfolk Chronicle & Gazette broadsheet. It had apparently been given to the Victorian Rowing Association by a Mr H Bennet, via a gentleman whose father had bought it to England about 1890. After the 1948 Olympic Games the trophy returned to Australia.

In 1949 the Norwich Rowing Committee received a letter from Australia asking if Norwich would like its cup back and because of its historical value they jumped at the chance.

On March 2nd 1950 the Cup was officially presented to the City of Norwich by Viscount Bruce of Melbourne, himself a past prime minister of Australia and a great oarsman in his time.

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