Whilst it might not have the media coverage of the London Marathon, The UK Traditional Boat Championship or the Great River Race as it is known has become a favourite with crews and the public. It is known as the ‘River Marathon’ because the course is 21.6 Miles from the Isle of Dogs to Ham in Surrey.
To the uninitiated, the event is a spectacular boat race up the River Thames that often attracts over 300 crews from all over the globe and appeals to every level of competitor from the fun rowers to the more serious racers.
There are 35 trophies at stake for the various classes of boats and competitors. Like the running marathon many of the crews dress up in fancy dress and compete for charities.
The Race began in 1988 , but has grown each year and is a real global event attracting crews from all over the world. To give all crews an equal chance, entrants were handicapped according to the calculated potential performance of their boats. This was done using a sophisticated computer programme.
As well as the crews , the entertainment is provided by the amazing array of boats on display from the ever popular Dragon Boats to Waterman Cutters.
It is always fun to walk down to the Docklands Sailing Centre and the Millwall Slipway to the boats and crews before the firing cannon sets of the race. Celebrity starters who have come along to fire the cannon to get the Race under way have included Sting, Jerry Hall, Sir Steven Redgrave, Sir Trevor MacDonald, Jane Horrocks and Dame Tanni Grey Thompson.
With entries now well over 300 boats carrying approx. 2,400 competitors racing for 35 trophies, The Great River Race has become the biggest and most prestigious event of its kind in Europe.
From 9:15 hours
MILLWALL RIVERSIDE, WESTFERRY ROAD
Competing crews arrive, register and prepare their boats for the launch and of course the Race. Public announcements throughout.
MILLWALL DOCK SLIPWAY
The starter fires the maroon to start the first of the 300-odd entrants. Boats leave on a ‘slowest first, fastest last’ handicap basis, giving all crews an equal chance.
RIVERSIDE BELOW HAM HOUSE, RICHMOND