LONDON, England - The Big Ben Challenge in Central London is allowing for a rare chance to paddle the River Thames. To date, fewer than 20 people have raced there and perhaps fewer than 100 have paddled SUPs there. By participating in the Ben Ben Race you will be among the first. The Big Ben Challenge event will take place on Saturday, September 23, 2017.
The Tidal Thames downriver of Putney is not a place for inexperienced stand up paddlers. There are strong tidal currents, a big tidal range and river traffic so everyone entering should be confident, experienced and able to paddle at times against currents of up to 4 knots. The event is planned around low tide to minimize risk and the need to paddle against the tide.
The Big Ben Race is an elite level 20km race from Putney to Big Ben. Boards up to 14ft will start approximately 1 hour before low tide at Westminster Bridge. The race will take approximately 2 hrs – 2.5 hours depending on your ability, wind conditions and the accuracy of tidal predictions. This event will be limited to around 20 racers and all should be experienced racers with tidal river or sea racing experience.
There is an entry fee of £35 for each category. In both categories men and women will race together for the same prizes with men given a time handicap based on last year’s times and times of other races. More details to be provided before the race.
The event will also host the Big Ben Challenge which is a 10k sprint race from Big Ben to Putney and back with the participants entered to win prizes from Starboard and Animal kit. There will also be a Red Dragon race with four teams of up to four riders on Red Dragon race boards to race 10km to Big Ben from Putney.
Paddling the Thames. | Photos via Paul Hyman
How to Enter
To enter please send and email to [email protected] and if you have enough experience to qualify you will be sent a link to book your place and pay your entry fee. In your email please include the following:
- Address including postcode
- E mail address
- Event preference
- Provide a summary of your SUP race experience. Please state any races completed 2015-2017 with location distances, dates, placings, etc.
- If we are unable to offer you a race place would you like to have a place in one of the Challenge events?
- If you are entering the Red Dragon Challenge do you have a team or would you like us to find you team mates?
This event is sponsored by Tideway – the company building the Tideway Tunnel to protect the Thames from sewage pollution. Tideway will be running a Foreshore Festival at Putney and the theme of the event and racing will be to celebrate the fabulous and unique environment of the Tidal Thames, through Recreation, environmental engagement and safety. There will be many stands and stalls at the event where you can buy food, learn about the river and much more. The Putney riverside area is a really lively part of London. As well as the many rowing, sailing and boating clubs historic pubs and nearby excellent cafes and restaurants, clubs and shops. It is also famous as the starting point of the annual Oxford v Cambridge Boat Race.
Paddling the Thames. | Photo via Paul Hyman
You will required by the Port of London Authority (who have ultimate responsibility for all safety issues on the Tidal Thames) to wear a buoyancy aid (PFD) or a self-inflating life jacket. The type fitted in a waist band is ideal for racers who would overheat in a standard PFD under race conditions. Leg leashes are not recommended on the Tidal Thames, particularly ankle leashes. You may need to release in a hurry if you become tangled around a buoy or mooring so we strongly recommend quick release waist leashes.
The event will be marshaled by paddlers with Thames Tideway experience (in kayaks and on SUPs) and there will be two safety boats covering the race course. In the unlikely event that wind or river conditions make the event unsafe to run we will reduce the distance or cancel.
Although its clay substrate makes it always look brown and dirty Thames is generally one of Europe’s cleanest urban rivers and it is full of fish and wildlife. We see seals and an occasional porpoise in the river. However it can become polluted after heavy storms and we may need to cancel in the event of severe pollution.
For more SUP Events view the Supconnect Events Calendar