Battle of the Thames 2019

Paddlers line up for the start of the 2014 Battle of the Thames at Thames Sailing Club in Surbiton. Photo: Supjunkie

GBSUP series heads for the capital with key fixture at Battle of the Thames


With the first two GBSUP Race Series fixtures of 2019 now at capacity, it’s time to make sure of grabbing a place in the next event in the series — the iconic Battle of the Thames at the end of April.


This year marks the ninth staging of the race, one of the UK’s first dedicated stand-up paddleboard events and the first to be staged on flat water.


Founder Brian Johncey, of the Blue Chip Board Store, said: ‘The race was my idea. Back in 2011, there were some small club SUP races going on at the coast in an ad-hoc format, but I wanted to start a more formal annual race on the River Thames.


‘My vision was for a flat water event that could grow into a format that would become popular with a range of abilities.’


Brian has now realised his vision in spades, and this year’s BoTT on 27 April is attracting a broad mix of paddlers, from the highly competitive right through to those who just enjoy being out on the water.


This is the second year that BoTT has featured in the GBSUP series, and director Mark Price said the team was looking forward to returning to the Thames.


‘The 2018 race was our inaugural event as GBSUP and we are delighted to be involved once again with such an important fixture on the UK paddleboarding calendar.’


BoTT comes after the first two GBSUP race series events, the National Sprint Championships on 30 March, and Head of the Dart on 14 April.


The main 10-mile BoTT course has remained unchanged since 2011, and its out-and-back route is widely considered as much of a mental challenge as a physical one. Paddlers first head downstream from Thames Sailing Club in Surbiton to Kingston Bridge then back upstream past the island of Ravens Ait and Hampton Court Palace to Hampton Court Bridge.


Here competitors turn back, passing the start line and then turning left at Ravens Ait to head upstream again to Hampton Court Bridge before the final dash downstream to the finish line back at Thames Sailing Club.


At the end of the first race in 2011, just 30 paddlers crossed the finish line — 25 men, and five women. ‘One of the women did the race with her dog on board!’ said Brian.


Numbers grew to 140 finishers in 2015, and then to 169 last year. This year, as 2018 overall winner Ryan James heads back to defend his 14’ hard board title, entries are capped at 200 across all classes.


Both James and last year’s leading woman on a 14’ hard board, Marie Buchanan, are BoTT veterans — they both won in 2011 and they have each achieved a further three BoTT victories. Also heading back to the start line at Thames Sailing Club in Surbiton are last year’s 12’6” hard board category winners, Duncan Slater and Fran Blake, although Blake is switching to the 14’ category for 2019.


BoTT consistently attracts some of the UK’s and Europe’s top competitors, among them Anglo-Dutch paddler James Van Drunen, who uses BoTT as part of his pre-season training. He won the race in 2017, was just pipped to the post by Ryan James last year, and is already signed up for this year.


Other formidable SUP racers to have topped the BoTT podium include Australia’s Jamie Mitchell, founder of JM Paddleboards: the 10 times Molokai to Oahu Champion and four times ISA World Championship Gold Medalist won in 2013.


This year the full BoTT categories are:


  • 14’ Men — 10-mile BoTT
  • 14’ Women  — 10-mile BoTT
  • 12’6” Men — 10-mile BoTT
  • 12’6” Women  — 10-mile BoTT
  • 14’ Men inflatable — 10-mile BoTT
  • 14’ Women inflatable — 10-mile BoTT
  • 12’6” Men inflatable — 10-mile BoTT
  • 12’6” Women inflatable — 10-mile BoTT
  • Surf Shapes (men and women) — 10-mile BoTT course
  • N1SCO (men and women) — 6-mile course
  • BoTT Grand Tour leisure fleet (men and women) — any board, any distance
  • Mini BoTT — 2-mile fun race
  • Mega Board — 2-mile fun race
  • Hobie Pedalboard and Prone — 6-mile course


Registration closes at midnight on 20 April, and race numbers can be collected from 08:00 on 27 April at Thames Sailing Club. The pre-race safety briefing is at 10:00, and racing gets under way at 10:45 followed by prize-giving at 14:30 and the free-to-enter Dragon Board sprints at 15:00.


Trophies will be awarded to those finishing first, second, and third in each of the 14’, 12’6”, Surf Shapes, N1SCO, and other classes.  All competitors are awarded an event medal, and race tee shirts can be purchased when entering.


GBSUP Series prizes will also be awarded, with medals for the first three men and women (stand-up and prone) overall in any race, and the first three in four age divisions — Seniors (18-39), Masters (40-49), Veterans (50-59), and Grand Kahuna (60+). If there are fewer than three paddlers in any age category, podium places will still be awarded to those who took part.

There’s much more about BoTT on the Blue Chip website — if you’re planning to take part, Brian recommends reading through all the detail before heading for online entries.

Written by Eugenie Verney
Photos by SUPJUNKIE (Sarah Thornely) and Dave White Photography

More information from the GBSUP Team on 01332409080;

The 2013 Battle of the Thames gets underway. Photo: Supjunkie
Battle of the Thames race director Brian Johncey with Red Paddle Co co-founder John Hibbard at the first race in 2011s. Photo: Blue Chip Boards
Jamie Mitchell — 10 times Molokai to Oahu Champion and four times ISA World Championship Gold Medalist — won Battle of the Thames in 2013. Photo: Supjunkie
Battle of the Thames competitor Ken Harmer was one of the oldest to complete the 2013 10-mile race. Photo: Supjunkie
Roxie Charters completed the first Battle of the Thames in 2011 accompanied by her dog. Photo: Blue Chip Boards
Sarah Smith has reached the Battle of the Thames podium several times on her inflatable, including in 2014. Photo: Supjunkie
The first prone paddler to complete the Battle of the Thames, in 2011. Photo: Blue Chip Boards