The annual Medway Barge Match traditionally runs from Gillingham Pier to Medway Bell Buoy and return, a course distance of 29 miles.
Along with the Thames, the Medway Barge Match is one of the most historic races in the world.
Officially, the Medway Barge Match was established in 1880 and has been held almost every year since, only temporarily being halted for the World Wars. There have now been over 110 matches on the River Medway, although a recently unearthed cup from the 1850’s suggests that it may be even older than first thought.
Of the 8 matches in total throughout the season, the Medway Match is always the season opener. Barges will travel up the coast from Essex and Suffolk to compete, with local barges ‘Edith May’, ‘Marjorie’ and ‘Niagara’ representing their home river.
The start and finish line is off Gillingham Pier (where Medway Queen is moored), which undoubtedly enjoys the best view of the match, along with The Strand, Gillingham and Minster Beach, Isle of Sheppey. The barges take between 5 and 10 hours to get around the course, depending on conditions. Regular updates and photos will be posted on Tiller and Wheel’s facebook page
If you would like to join a barge for the race, please book via the online shop, or contact us for more information. If the race is shown as sold out on our booking tool, please do contact us as we may be able to source places on other competing barges.
Between May and September, the East Coast plays host to a series of festivals and events. Take the opportunity to be aboard the barge for one of the Match days, which have been running since 1863. The prevailing conditions dictate whether you’ll experience a tranquil day gliding around the river, or a romping sail tearing up the course with up to 15 other barges.
The traditional working vessels of the East Coast evolved over centuries to be purposeful craft, perfectly tailored for their tasks – be it the elegant fishing smacks or the powerful sailing barge.
In the modern era, they have become a relic of a past age. However, for the survivors, the craft have taken on a new life and are the perfect platform for the public to enjoy the East Coast rivers they were designed to work on and reconnect with Britain’s great maritime heritage.
Tiller and Wheel Ltd, established in 2019, aims to provide greater access to these craft for all and in doing so, ensure they have a sustainable future ongoing.
Please explore the website to learn more and we look forward to welcoming you aboard.
Edward Gransden and Heather Burgess
Directors – Tiller and Wheel Ltd
Preserving the past, sailing into the future