147 years of Thames Sailing Barge racing

Tomorrow sees the 147th Thames Sailing Barge Match. Three different classes of barge will race downriver from Gravesend, Kent, out into the Thames Estuary and then back up river for the finish.

The contest originated in 1863 through the initiative of Henry Dodd, Victorian London’s ‘Golden Dustman’. He was the Dickensian equivalent of a modern day ‘Muck Away’ entrepreneur, using his barge fleet to cart the trash of the metropolis to landfill sites in Essex and Kent and also to brickmaking works where it was burnt to fire kilns.

The Thames Barge Match is now the longest running, regularly organised, national racing event for traditional sail in the world and is run in conjunction with the Port of London Authority.

YM’s news editor, Dick Durham, has been invited to award the trophies during the race supper at the ancient waterside pub, the Three Daws, in Gravesend. Dick was the last mate to work on a trading barge. He served with Bob Roberts aboard Cambria and was aboard when she carried the last freight under sail from Tilbury Dock to Ipswich in October 1970.