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Historic Barge Rowing Event

If you’re planning a cruise on the River Thames on 30 June 2018, choose your time of travel carefully if you want to get a bonus view of one of the toughest river races in the calendar.

The Thames Historic Barge Rowing Event will start at Greenwich at midday, and is expected to end at Westminster Bridge at any time between 1.45-2.30pm.

In this arduous race, around 12 teams will row barges weighing 30 tons along the seven mile course, using only two 20 ft oars (known as sweeps), with a third one at the stern to help steer the barge. Whilst each team has 4-6 rowers, only three are allowed to be active at any one time. At least that gives contestants a chance to have a rest on the gruelling course, which usually takes a minimum of 90 minutes to compete.

The race isn’t just a test of strength, it also tests the skills needed to pilot unpowered barges up-river, stopping at moored barges to pick up three pennants along the way. Knowledge of the tides is paramount as rowers use the currents to help propel the barge.

The race commemorates the Thames bargemen who used to move freight this way right up until the 1930s.

When and where to see the race

If you join one of our Circular Cruise boats after 1 o’clock, you should catch them on the last part of the race after they come under Tower Bridge and head towards the finish line at Westminster Bridge. Alternatively, you could see them at any point on the race between Greenwich and Westminster if you pick up a boat run by our sister company Thames River Cruises after the midday start.

The Thames Historic Barge Rowing Event is an incredible event – click here for a short video of last year’s event which explains more about the skill and shows the strength needed to finish it! If you’d like to catch a Circular Cruise boat to give you a riverside view of the action, click here to book your tickets.


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