An slightly old promotional video for the event (when it was run in the opposite direction) is here:
This annual race was inspired by a 1987 charity row by Doggett’s Coat and Badge men who rowed the Company of Watermen and Lightermen’s shallop from Hampton Court to the Tower of London. Following the success of this it was decided to issue a challenge to find the UK Traditional Boat Champions. From the start a pursuit handicap was run. All boats were handicapped using naval architects’ calculations so that the slowest boat went away first and the fastest, last. This makes for good sport even for those many crews who just wish to take part and who have no real intention of making a race of it.
For the last three years all crews have been equipped with a GPS tracking system which allows both race organisers and members of the public to track the progress of competitors throughout the race by logging on to the Great River Race website.
This year over 300 boats took part. The rules of the race say that the boats must be rowed, sculled or paddled and most boat classes must carry a coxswain plus a passenger (who may take turns at the oar or paddle). The ‘passenger rule’ comes from the Watermen’s historic responsibility to carry passengers on the Thames (small children are often favoured for this role). Also, no sliding seats or riggers are allowed and each boat must fly a flag. The huge variety of boats that take part (gigs, cutters, currachs, dragon boats, skiffs, whalers, and longboats to name some) coupled with the inclusive atmosphere of the event which attracts men and women, the young and the old, the competitive and the leisurely, mean that there are thirty five trophies on offer including one for ‘sportsmanship’ and one for ‘endeavour’, that is the most effort displayed by a junior crew.
If you fancy taking part in the 2012 race, you can hire or buy a suitable boat here.
Here follows some of Tim’s photographs from the race: