Get the Best Views of This Year's Great River Race

Chiswick Pier provides an excellent vantage point to see the flotilla


How The Great River Race Became London's 'River Marathon'

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As part of the Totally Thames Festival the Great River Race will be run upstream from London Docklands to Ham on Saturday 10 September.

The gruelling 21 mile course attracts over 330 crews from all over the globe. The race appeals to every level of competitor from dedicated athletes to those who enjoy fun, fancy dress and charity stunts. It’s a great day out for both competitors and spectators.

Perhaps the best stop to see the flotilla of boats locally will be at Chiswick Pier. The race begins at Docklands at 9.50am on a “slowest first, fastest last” handicap basis. The first boats should be passing Chiswick Pier around 11.45am with the winners arriving at Ham by 1pm.

Chiswick Pier provides a great vantage point for spectators with excellent views of a long stretch of the river. The Pier House will be open from 11.00am where hot and cold refreshments, and wine and beer will be on sale. It will also have Moroccan food from Argania and homemade organic ice creams from Non Solo Gelato.

The race was first run in 1988 with 61 entrants rowing more than 20 boat types representing six countries, including an Hawaiian outrigger, war canoe, Viking longboat, Norwegian scow, Canadian C-8 canoe, Chinese dragon boat and numerous Cornish pilot and other gigs, skiffs cutters, ASC, naval whalers and the like to take on the Watermen’s shallop.

Since then the race has gone from strength to strength and has now become ‘London’s River Marathon’. Its inspiration came from the great interest generated by a 1987 charity event in which the famous Doggett’s Coat & Badge winners from The Company of Watermen & Lightermen rowed its shallop (passenger barge) from Hampton Court to The Tower of London.

The idea that emerged was a UK Traditional Boat Championship creating an all-comers challenge to beat the Doggett’s men racing on a handicap basis. Entries were restricted to traditional style, coxed craft powered by a minimum of four oars or paddles.

In keeping with the Company’s historic responsibility to apprentice and licence Watermen to carry passengers on the tidal Thames each boat had to carry a passenger. The winners would hold for one year the Challenge Trophy of the Company of Watermen & Lightermen featuring a mounted original Watermen’s badge.

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August 27, 2022

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