Great River Race
The Great River Race, mostly for rowers, took place on Saturday 7th September. The 21.6-mile course started from the Isle of Dogs and was rowed on a rising tide through the capital all the way to Ham House, which is just upstream from Richmond. 300 competing craft came from every corner of the land, also teams from Ireland, Holland and Scotland took part.
The variety of craft is extraordinary, including many purpose-built for such an event. The 3,000 odd crews have had intensive training as this is indeed a marathon – non-stop all the way – even the Richmond Half Tide Lock had to be by-passed as the flood tide pushed them all the way. Passage under many a bridge can be hazardous and a team of supporters in fast ribs are always to hand.
A few years ago Judy and I witnessed a near disaster from Hungerford Foot Bridge as a tripper boat attempted to cross the line of competitors. In response, a well known commentator hurled her sandwiches at the offending skipper!
The launch of the competing boats is carried out at the Old Dock entrance to Millwall Dock, which can be very muddy, while the finish at Ham is set in a most beautiful reach of the river. Many hands and even mobile cranes help out on both occasions.
I have never competed but have viewed this splendid occasion from a variety of viewpoints including an ancient launch which provided a spectacular, on-going view from start to finish. Getting ashore usually means a wetting as well as the elements with gusts of wind and rain sometimes drenching the hard-pushed crews, as happened at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee memorable event.