Apprentice lightermen barge their way under Tower Bridge to victory on the Thames

Battle of the Barges under Tower Bridge. Picture: Todd-White Art Photography

Battle of the Barges under Tower Bridge. Picture: Todd-White Art Photography - Credit: PLA

An apprentice crew has won this year’s Barge Drive race on the Thames rowing seven miles downriver under Tower Bridge from the Houses of Parliament to Greenwich Palace.

Tough going for apprentice barge crew in Thames race. Picture: Todd-White Art Photography

Tough going for apprentice barge crew in Thames race. Picture: Todd-White Art Photography - Credit: PLA

The crew from the Apprentice Lighterman was first past the post opposite the Isle of Dogs in the annual Barge Driving Trust’s contest.

They beat 12 other crews using tidal power and sheer brute strength rowing the 30 tonne barges.

Leap of faith... collecting penant from moored Thames barge. Picture: Todd-White Art Photography

Leap of faith... collecting penant from moored Thames barge. Picture: Todd-White Art Photography - Credit: PLA

Only three crew members can row at any time using the 20ft oars, known as ‘sweeps’.

Two rowers power the craft from the bow, while the third uses a ‘sweep’ at the stern to steer the barge with the tide.

Arriving on finishing line by Cutty Sark, seen from Isle of Dogs. Picture: Todd-White Art Photograph

Arriving on finishing line by Cutty Sark, seen from Isle of Dogs. Picture: Todd-White Art Photography - Credit: PLA


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The navigational challenge includes spinning the barge at the start.

Each barge must also collect at least one pennant flag during the race by a crew-member leaping from the vessel to a moored barge and back again.

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The annual event is sponsored by the Port of London Authority and the Company of Watermen and Lightermen.

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