A traditional spectacle of skill and power is returning to London’s main river.

The 42nd annual Thames Barge Driving Race will see 12 teams navigate 30 tonne barges over a seven mile course between Greenwich and Westminster Bridge.

Each vessel will be manned by crews of four to six Freemen and Apprentices of the Company Of Watermen And Lightermen.

They will use only the power of 20ft oars to row along the river.

Their navigational skills will be further tested by the task of collecting at least one pennant flag from a moored barge along the course.

The historic event on Saturday, July 15 starts at 1.30pm close to Woolwich Ferry South Pier and will last until approximately 3.30pm.

Thames Barge Driving Race

It commemorates the skills of the men who used to moved freight around London, riding the strong tidal currents of the Thames alone.

Movement of cargo by this method was used until the closure of the London Docks in the 1970s.

Spectators typically line the route, watching from bridges and vantage points to cheer on the teams and party boats follow behind the race, adding to the festivities.

The annual event is run by The Thames Barge Driving Trust to encourage the movement of cargo via the tidal Thames and as a way to recruit younger people back to river trades.

The trust’s honorary president Admiral Alan West, Baron West of Spithead, traditionally presents the prizes at the event.

More information here .

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