Rowing: Bullas stays the course

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ROWING's equivalent of the 50-round bareknuckle prize fight was fought out over 5 1/2 miles of twisting Thames through the heart of London last night, writes Hugh Matheson. Chris Bullas of Higham won the 280th Doggets Coat and Badge, beating three other single scullers.

It is not strictly a race, more a test of watermanship, but the first to cross the line is the winner. There are no rules governing the course a competitor steers and none for the umpire, the bargemaster of the Fishermen's Company. He led the flotilla of following launches past, and almost over, the stragglers.

Last weekend, Bullas won the Under-23 single sculls at the British National Championships on a six-lane course over 2,000 metres. But he comes from a river family which has never won the Doggets race and needed to prove his worth.

Starting under London Bridge, the four scullers found the tide still flowing against them and they were soon close to the shore, in line astern, with Bullas leading.

With the inshore passage along Jubilee Gardens blocked by barges working on the Tube extension, the scullers crossed to Parliament. Bullas added to his advantage by delaying the crossing until after Westminster Bridge.