London prepares for The Great River Race

The Great River Race

Around 2,400 rowers are expected to gather in London on Saturday 17 September, for the capital’s annual Great River Race.

The 21-mile event sees competitive and casual rowers set off at 1.40pm from the Millwall Dock Slipway in London Docklands, racing upriver along the Thames to Ham House, Richmond.

Along the way, competitors pass under the iconic Tower Bridge and Westminster Bridge, as well as passing the London Eye, Houses of Parliament, and Battersea Power Station.

Over 300 boats are anticipated for the Race, with Celtic Longboats, Cornish Pilot Gigs, Skiffs, Montague Whalers, and many, many other types of row, paddle, and sail boats traditionally taking part.

Reflecting the diversity of boats and crews taking part in the event, there are 35 trophies available – with speed, effort, sportsmanship, and even costumes being judged across the different boat and age categories.

Two crews compete in The Great River Race

The overall winner – the crew that crosses the finish line first despite a handicap start – receives the coveted Challenge Trophy of the Company of Watermen & Lightermen, as well as a cannon broadside on the riverside below Ham House and the title of UK Traditional Boat Champions.

“In the same way as the marathon, we attract people that do it for fun,” organiser Stuart Wolff told BBC News after last year’s Race, “people that do it to raise money for charity, or to get their finishing certificate – as well as the out-and-out racers.”

The 2010 Race was won by the Maggie Crew, who completed the 21-mile course in just two hours and 55 minutes in their Dinghy.

The fastest boat – which failed to win overall due to the handicap system – belonged to The Rafters, who took just two hours and 10 minutes to complete the course in their 16-man dragonboat.

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