Thames Barge Driving Race 2013

Rowed barges approaching Tower Bridge during the Thames Barge Driving Race 2013For 585 photos of the event click here!

A week after the Henley Royal Regatta, a rather different rowing event took place. Instead of high-tech, lightweight, sleek and nimble boats, 30 ton, dumb steel Thames? barges were competing. HGVs instead of Formula One cars.

Like the Boat Race and the Henley Royal Regatta, the "racetrack" was the River Thames. The tidal Thames, between Greenwich Pier and Westminster Bridge, seven long miles along spectacular landmarks like Canary Wharf, HMS Belfast, Tower Bridge, the London Eye, and the Houses of Parliament.

The background to this event is rather different ? the Thames used to be the main artery for goods traffic in and out of London, when Lightermen used their skills and their knowledge of the tide and currents to navigate their unpowered barges by oars (called "sweeps") alone.

The Thames barges were used to transport goods between moored seagoing vessels and warehouses along the Thames.

At the time when Thames Lightermen were in charge of goods transport, the Thames Watermen, the cabbies of the time, were in charge of public transport. The lightermen are another link to an event featured on this website, the Lord Mayor's Show, where the new Lord Mayor is brought to the City of London by Lightermen on a rowing barge, following a centuries-old tradition.

Again I have been following the race on the umpire?s launch (the ?John Harriot?, a high speed Thames launch by Thames Executive Charters). The image library covers the race day, from the preparations in the morning, to the the prize-giving in the afternoon.

Many more photos of the 2013 Thames Barge Driving race are available. If you are looking for images of a particular boat, a rower, or a spectator on one of the following vessels, please get in contact!

Thames Barge Driving Match
Port of London Authority





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