Open main menu

James Edward Cracknell, OBE (born 5 May 1972) is a British athlete, rowing champion and double Olympic gold medalist. Married to TV and radio presenter Beverley Turner, he and his wife have three children.[1] Cracknell was appointed OBE for "services to sport" in the 2005 New Year Honours List.

James Cracknell
Cracknell in August 2009
Personal information
Born (1972-05-05) 5 May 1972 (age 47)
Sutton, London
Alma materKingston Grammar School

University of Reading

Peterhouse, Cambridge
Height1.93 m (6 ft 4 in)
Weight98 kg (216 lb)
Beverley Turner (m. 2002)
CountryGreat Britain
SportMen's rowing
Event(s)Coxless fours
ClubLeander Club
Coached byJürgen Gröbler
Mark Banks



Cracknell began rowing whilst attending the independent Kingston Grammar School[2] and rowed at the Junior World Championships in 1989 and 1990, winning a gold medal in 1990. He graduated from the University of Reading as a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Human Geography in 1993, followed by a PGCE at the Institute of Education and a Master of Science (MSc) from Brunel University in 1999.[3] Moving into the senior squad, Cracknell made numerous appearances in the World Rowing Championships; however, he did not win any medals prior to the 1996 Summer Olympics. He qualified in the double scull for the 1996 Games, but fell ill with tonsillitis and was unable to race.[4] In 1997, he won a seat in the men's coxless fours, with Steve Redgrave, Matthew Pinsent and Tim Foster. With this crew, he won the World Rowing Championships in 1997, 1998 and 1999 (with Ed Coode replacing the injured Foster), and finally the gold medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics. In August 2000, the month prior to winning gold in Sydney, he took part in a 3-part BBC documentary entitled Gold Fever. This followed the coxless four team in the years leading up to the Olympics, including video diaries recording the highs and lows in their quest for gold.

With Redgrave then having retired, Cracknell swapped from rowing on strokeside to bowside to join Pinsent in the coxless pairs. The pair won the World Championships in 2001, when they also won the coxed pairs, and 2002. However, in 2003 a disappointing season was capped by a failure to win the World Championships, and Pinsent and Cracknell were shifted into the coxless four, with Steve Williams and Alex Partridge. Ed Coode replaced the injured Partridge in time for the 2004 Summer Olympics and this crew won the gold medal in Athens, beating world champions Canada by 0.08s.

He came second in the pairs division of the 2005–2006 Atlantic Rowing Race in "Spirit of EDF Energy", partnered by Ben Fogle. Although they took first place in the line honours of the pairs event (overall, they were third to finish the race behind the two men's fours), the use of ballast water during the race resulted in the pair being moved to second position of the pairs event in accordance with the race rules. The event helped raise money for Children in Need.[1]

They made landfall in Antigua at 07.13 GMT on 19 January 2006, a crossing time of 49 days, 19 hours and 8 minutes. In February 2006, he announced his decision to retire from competitive rowing. Shortly after, Through Hell and High Water, a BBC/Twofour television programme of Cracknell and Fogle's experience of the Atlantic race, was aired. The pair wrote a book called The Crossing: Conquering the Atlantic in the World's Toughest Rowing Race, about their trip.[1]

On 4 March 2006, Cracknell's home was burgled; his Olympic gold medals were stolen, together with his wedding ring and a computer containing 20,000 words of a new book and family photographs.[5] The gold medals were subsequently recovered by a neighbour's dog where the thief had discarded them. The thief, Mark Murphy, 30, was caught and jailed.[6]

He ran the London Marathon on 23 April 2006, in a time of 3 hours, finishing over an hour ahead of his rowing teammate Matthew Pinsent.

In January 2008 Cracknell set up Threshold Sports with Julian Mack and Charlie Beauchamp.

In December 2008 he set off yet again with former teammate from the Atlantic Row, Ben Fogle, and Dr Ed Coats (the winner of a nationwide search),[7] this time to take part in the inaugural Amundsen Omega3 South Pole Race. The team traversed the 473.6 miles suffering frostbite, infected blisters, dramatic weight-loss, pneumonia and exhaustion and came second only to a pair of Norwegians (over 20 hours[8]). The BBC aired a 5 x 1-hour, prime-time Sunday night series of the adventure, On Thin Ice (Twofour), in June–July 2009. The series was accompanied by a self-penned book of the race, Race to the Pole (MacMillan).[1]

In July 2008 Cracknell competed in the European Triathlon Championships for GBR for his age group and in November 2009 he took part in the New York Marathon. In April 2009, James completed the 125-mile non-stop Devizes to Westminster Canoe Marathon in a two-man racing K2 kayak with canoe partner Bernie Shosbree.[9]

James Cracknell at the London Triathlon 2007

In August 2009 Cracknell attempted to break the non-stop Land's End to John O'Groats mixed tandem world record along with Olympic gold medallist Rebecca Romero. The pair got just past Johnstone Bridge in Scotland before being forced to stop due to problems with Romero's knees. They were on course to break the record by over three hours.[10] The attempt was to launch the 2010 Ride Across Britain that Cracknell's company organised

In April 2010 Cracknell became the highest placed Briton ever in the 25-year history of the Marathon des Sables, finishing 12th. His exploits were filmed for a Discovery Channel documentary The Toughest Race on Earth to be aired in October 2010. This highest ever placing was beaten in 2013 by another Briton, Danny Kendall who finished 10th.[11]

Six months after his cycling accident which damaged his frontal lobe (see below), Cracknell competed in the Yukon Arctic Ultra. He finished second in the 430-mile race across the frozen Alaskan countryside, beaten only by British cyclist Alan Sheldon who beat Cracknell's 163:20 with his own 99:30.[12] Cracknell's participation in the race was filmed for the documentary The Coldest Race on Earth aired on the Discovery Channel.[13] He ran the 2012 London Marathon in just under three hours, one of the fastest celebrities, but behind Nell McAndrew.

In 2018, Cracknell enrolled at Peterhouse at Cambridge University to study for a MPhil degree in human evolution.[14] On 7 April 2019, Cracknell became the oldest competitor, and oldest winner, for Cambridge in the 2019 Boat Race; at the age of 46 he became the oldest rower in the event's history by 10 years.[15]

Presenting and journalismEdit

Cracknell has presented sport on ITV and Channel 4. He covered The Boat Race 2007 with Mark Durden-Smith for ITV and is the presenter of ITV's coverage of the British Superbike Championship. He is also the main presenter of Channel 4's Red Bull Air Race World Series coverage. He is a contracted columnist with The Daily Telegraph writing about various topics including sport, motoring, gardening, cookery and others.


A prominent supporter of the NOtoAV campaign in 2011 Alternative Vote referendum, Cracknell was announced, on 2 June 2013, as a Conservative Party candidate for South West England and Gibraltar in European Parliament election of 2014,[16] but despite being placed third on the Conservative party list was not elected.

Charitable activitiesEdit

From 27 February 2008 James Cracknell covered over 1,400 miles from Britain to Africa in 10 days, rowing, cycling and swimming. He rowed from Dover, England to Cap Gris Nez, France, then cycled to Tarifa, Spain, and finally swam across the Strait of Gibraltar from Tarifa to Punta Cires, Morocco. The comedian David Walliams joined him for the final part of his journey providing support from his previous experience of swimming the English Channel.[17] The money raised by the challenge went towards the BBC's Sport Relief charity, with highlights of the action broadcast on 14 March. He was the celebrity guest at The WiG GiG which raise over £10,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support.[18]

In January 2009, James took part in the Amundsen Omega 3 South Pole Race with his TV presenter friend Ben Fogle and Dr Ed Coats as members of Team QinetiQ,[19] finishing in second, 20 hours behind the winning Norwegian team.[20] The race and the reasons behind was broadcast on BBC Television during summer 2009 in the series On Thin Ice. The trio raised funds for the children's medical research charity Sparks, chosen as the charity partner in memory of Cracknell's niece, Eva, who died at six days old after suffering oxygen deprivation at birth.[21]

On Saturday 3 October 2009, Cracknell and Ben Fogle started a 60-hour (estimated) journey from Edinburgh to London riding a rickshaw in support of SSAFA. They aimed to arrive in time for the Pride of Britain Awards ceremony on Monday 5 October 2009.[22] They had to endure storm force gales in Scotland and Northumberland on their first day of the 450-mile ride.[23] Early on the last day they made a stop at Etonbury Middle School in Arlesey, off the A1 road to London, where about 100 children welcomed them and to wave them on their way.[24]

Cycling accident, helmet advocacyEdit

On 20 July 2010, Cracknell suffered a hit from behind by a petrol tanker whilst cycling during an attempt to cycle, row, run and swim from Los Angeles to New York within 18 days.[25] The accident happened at around 5.30am on a quiet stretch of road outside Winslow, Arizona. He has attributed his survival to the fact he was wearing a cycle helmet at the time,[25] which was "shorn in two".[26] In the crash he suffered a contrecoup injury to the frontal lobes of his brain.[27][28] In 2012 Cracknell and his wife wrote Touching Distance about his life before and after his brain injury, which has left him with epilepsy and a changed personality, including a short temper.[29] Since the accident he has been conspicuous in advocating the use of bicycle helmets.[30][31]

Personal lifeEdit

In 2002, Cracknell married TV presenter Beverley Turner, with whom he lives in Chiswick. The couple have three children – a son, Croyde (born October 2003), and two daughters, Kiki (born March 2009) and Trixie (born April 2011). They announced their separation on 29 March 2019.[32]


Olympic gamesEdit

World championshipsEdit

Junior world championshipsEdit

  • 1990 – Gold, Coxless Four
  • 1989 – 10th, Coxed Pair

Boat RaceEdit


  • James Cracknell (1972–2001)
  • James Cracknell, MBE (2001–2004)
  • James Cracknell, OBE (2004-date)

National honourEdit


  1. ^ a b c d "Official Biography". Archived from the original on 8 July 2009. Retrieved 4 October 2009.
  2. ^ Tozer, Malcolm, ed. (2012). Physical Education and Sport in Independent Schools. John Catt Educational Ltd. p. 288. ISBN 9781908095442.
  3. ^ ‘CRACKNELL, James Edward’, Who's Who 2014, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2014
  4. ^ Rob Bagchi (7 December 2011). "50 stunning Olympic moments No4: Steve Redgrave's fifth gold medal". The Guardian. London.
  5. ^ Steele, John (4 March 2006). "Cracknell's gold medals and wedding ring stolen". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 3 October 2009.
  6. ^ "Cracknell medals burglar jailed". The Daily Mail. London. 27 July 2006. Retrieved 3 October 2009.
  7. ^ Gordon, Bryony (8 October 2008). "James Cracknell's race to the South Pole". Retrieved 31 October 2017.
  8. ^ [1][permanent dead link]
  9. ^ "Non-stop canoeing race continues". 11 April 2009. Retrieved 31 October 2017.
  10. ^ "Deloitte Ride Across Britain: End to End - UK Cycling Events". Deloitte Ride Across Britain. Archived from the original on 4 August 2009. Retrieved 31 October 2017.
  11. ^ [2] Archived 14 April 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 6 October 2011. Retrieved 5 August 2011.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ "Homepage". Archived from the original on 10 April 2011. Retrieved 31 October 2017.
  14. ^ Bryant, Tom (13 March 2019). "James Cracknell set to become oldest Boat Race competitor at 46". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  15. ^ White, Jim (14 March 2019). "James Cracknell selected by Cambridge at 46 to become oldest-ever Boat Race competitor". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  16. ^ "James Cracknell: Why I'm standing as an MEP". The Daily Telegraph. London. 2 June 2013.
  17. ^ "David Walliams and James Cracknell swim 12-mile Strait of Gibraltar in 4 hours 36 minutes". 8 March 2008. Archived from the original on 16 April 2009. Retrieved 13 March 2008.
  18. ^ "Hair-raising charity bash". Ealing Times. Retrieved 31 October 2017.
  19. ^ "Team QinetiQ Home Page". Retrieved 4 October 2009.
  20. ^ "Norway beats Britain in Pole race". BBC News. 23 January 2009. Retrieved 4 October 2009.
  21. ^ "Race to Save Tiny Lives". Archived from the original on 16 April 2009. Retrieved 4 October 2009.
  22. ^ "Ride of Britain". Archived from the original on 1 October 2009. Retrieved 5 October 2009.
  23. ^ "Ben Fogle and James Cracknell endure storm during charity rickshaw challenge". The Daily Mirror. 5 October 2009.
  24. ^ "Ben Fogle and James Cracknell stop off at Arlesey school on their 450-mile charity rickshaw ride". The Comet. 5 October 2009.
  25. ^ a b Jamieson, Alastair (27 July 2010). "Cracknell's life was saved by his crash helmet, which took the full force of the impact from the tanker's wing mirror". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  26. ^ Todd, Ben (21 April 2011). "No helmet, James? Cracknell minus the head protection that saved his life in cycle smash". London: Mail Online. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  27. ^ "Merida UK news Latest from James Cracknell". 23 March 2011. Archived from the original on 22 April 2012. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  28. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 10 October 2011. Retrieved 11 August 2011.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  29. ^ Grice, Elizabeth (19 October 2012). "James Cracknell: Hopefully, we'll get back to where we once were". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 19 November 2012.
  30. ^ Bloxham, Andy (8 January 2011). "James Cracknell on the bike accident that nearly killed him". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  31. ^ "Use Your Head". 8 August 2011. Archived from the original on 7 October 2011. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  32. ^ Ward, Victoria (29 March 2019). "James Cracknell and his wife Beverley Turner split after 17 years". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2 April 2019.
  33. ^ "Neil Chugani: Executive Profile & Biography - Bloomberg". Retrieved 31 October 2017.

External linksEdit