London, September 8th 2007 . Now in its 20th year, the 22-mile Great River Race is London’s “most colorful and spectacular river event” and is open to all traditional-style boats powered by four or more oars/paddles. Winners are determined by a combination of self-propelled speed as well as a designated handicap. There are 35 trophies to be raced for, so your chances of “winning” are pretty good and the odds of having fun, the best! See all sorts of watercraft including Chinese dragon boats, Hawaiian war canoes, Viking longboats, Irish curraghs, whalers, and skiffs.

This year, 300 boats (and 2,000+) competitors are expected to partake in the race that traverses the River Thames. Crews come from all over, including America and Canada, Holland, Sweden, France, Germany, Ireland, the Channel Islands, and of course – the UK. Registration for the race closed in early August 2007, but there’s still time to make lodging arrangements. The race will start just below Ham House in Richmond, Surrey and end at Island Gardens Park in Greenwich. The closest TUBE STATION: Richmond.

As said, the boat race will begin just below this 17th-century Stuart mansion, a popular attraction featuring period interiors, formal gardens, and a history of being one the most haunted houses in Britain. The following hotels and bed-and-breakfasts are within two miles of the great house and easy walking distance of the race.

Petersham Hotel, 0.9 miles
The Richmond Hill Hotel, 1 mile
The Richmond Gate Hotel, 1 mile
Richmond Park Hotel, 1 mile
Hobart Hall Hotel, 1.2 miles
Riverside Hotel, 1.3 miles
The Park, 1.5 miles
Bremic Hotel, 1.5 miles
Quinns Hotel, 1.6 miles
Shandon House Hotel, 1.7 miles
The Red Cow, 1.7 miles
The White Hart Hotel, 1.8 miles
Swallow Kingston Lodge Hotel, 2 miles

As for spectators, the spirited race is free to enjoy and can be observed perfectly from a number of vantage points, including the 14 bridges along the Thames. Consider these check points:  1. Ham, Richmond 2. Richmond Bridge 3. Kew Gardens 4. Chiswick Bridge 5. Hammersmith Bridge 6. Putney Bridge 7. Wandsworth Bridge 8. Battersea Bridge 9. Westminster Bridge and 10. The Tower Bridge.

The top 50 boats are expected to cover the grueling 22-mile course in about five hours, but the remaining 250 vessels will make their way eventually. Throughout the day, on-lookers should be able to catch a glimpse of the fun!

And note this regarding the trophies, individual speed for each watercraft is calculated by computer and an assigned handicap (which does not account for crew ability). The idea is that each craft, regardless of type, should cross the finish line at the same time – with crew ability a constant. Thus, the crew that is able to pull the most out of their boat, is deemed the winner: The UK Traditional Boat Champions. So, at any time, from start (12:55) to finish (approx. 19:00), you could be watching a winner. Remember, there are 35 trophies to vie for.

* From 2006 by Ray Little. Photos reprinted with permission of The Great River Race.