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Trafalgar Great River Race

Travelling 22 miles from semi-rural Richmond, Surrey to Island Gardens, Tower Hamlets, opposite the Cutty Sark at Greenwich, with the spectacular skyline of the Docklands, the Trafalgar Great River Race has been taking place since 1988. In 1988, there were 72 entrants with 20 boat types from 6 countries entered into the Trafalgar Great River Race, including a Hawaiin outrigger war canoe, a Viking longboat, a Norwegian scow, a Canadian C-8 canoe, a Chinese dragonboat, and numerous Cornish pilot and other gigs, skiffs, cutters, ASC, and naval whalers. The entrants for the Trafalgar Great River Race ranged from young Sea Scouts to hardened offshore rowing veterans, and with such diversity as museums, rowing clubs, pubs, youth organisations, police, fire brigades and the armed services, and they all finished except just one starter.

DateSaturday 25th September 2010
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Since 1988, the Trafalgar Great River Race the race has grown significantly to now having over 2,000 entrants with about 300 boats from 9 countries, including America, Canada, Holland, Sweden, France, Germany, Ireland, the Channel Islands and all over the UK, and there are now 35 trophies.

The idea for the Trafalgar Great River Race was sparked off by a charity event in 1987, where the famous Doggett's Coat & Badge winners from The Company of Watermen & Lightermen rowed their shallop (a passenger barge) from Hampton Court to The Tower of London.

The idea of the Trafalgar Great River Race emerged, to find the UK Traditional Boat Champions with an open-to-all race, providing they were traditional-style boats, coxed, with a passenger and with a minimum of 4 oars or paddles. They began by issuing a challenge to beat the Doggett's men, and, to make things fair, there was a handicap system put in place, so there was over an hours activity at the start line, as the slowest went first, up to the fastest going last. This was calculated scientifically using naval architects calculations and a sophisticated computer programme.

The winners of the Trafalgar Great River Race receive for a year the Challenge Trophy of The Company of Watermen & Lightermen, featuring a mounted original Watermen's badge, issued to William Savage of Gravesend in 1803. In addition, there were 6 other classes whose winners received trophies and a prize charity fund was established for the winner's nominated charity. In 2006, original oak and copper from HMS Victory, Nelson's Trafalgar flagship, was used to make a unique trophy for the winners of the Trafalgar Great River Race, to commemorate the 200th.anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar.

There have been some fascinating boat entries, including a magnificent replica 54' bronze age Greek galley; canvas and tar Irish naomhogs (which was reputed to have crossed the Atlantic in the eighth century), a new shallop and Thames wherry (both constructed along traditional lines especially for the Race), the world's oldest racing rowing boat, the 'Royal Oak' built in Co. Down, Northern Ireland, at the beginning of the last century, Thames Watermen cutters and the Great River Race Jolly Boat (the latter two having been built for the UK by Mark Edwards at Richmond Bridge Boathouses).