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PLA team wins annual barge race

PLA TOW Barge Race TeamMark Towens, Paul Rickner, Tony Handley, Darren Knight
and Alican Jennings

A Port of London Authority (PLA) team won the annual Transport on Water (TOW) Barge Race on the Thames on Saturday, 4 July.

The five-strong team raced the 11-tonne unpowered barge, Blackwall, using the tide and oars to race between the palaces of Greenwich and Westminster in just 1 hour, 52 minutes.

The PLA team was: harbour master for the Thames through central London, Mark Towens, from Gravesend; marine river

inspector, Paul Rickner from Greenwich; marine river inspector, Tony Handley from Dartford; deputy harbour master, Darren Knight from Bermondsey; and Alican Jennings deckhand from Twickenham. The team raced in memory of their colleague, diver and salvage ship skipper, Alan Nichols.

The competing crews passed London landmarks including the towers of Canary Wharf, Tower Bridge, the Shard, Tate Modern and the London Eye. En route they had to navigate alongside moored barges to collect marker flags.

“The Barge Race is a highlight of the river calendar,” said Mark Towens, who navigated Blackwall through central London. “It draws on the traditional skills of the waterman, working the tide to move the barge upriver. We’re really proud to have won and to dedicate the win to Alan.”

Traffic on the Thames was co-ordinated during the race by the PLA from PLA launch Lambeth, working with the Thames Barrier Navigation Control centre team (who oversees the river through central London), with marine services laying the start marker buoys and providing a rapid response RIB.