Hudson River Annual Tugboat Race Includes Dockside Competitions

Hudson River Tug Race
Tugboat race on the Hudson River


Tugboats in the New York Harbor area will have a chance to compete for bragging rights in the upcoming Great North River Tugboat Race & Competition. The race is set for Sunday, September 1st, and is open to tugs of all sizes that are available for a few hours of fun.

The race, now in its 21st year, divides the tugs into one of four divisions. The ones with the most horsepower would be in Division A followed on down the line to Division D for those with the least horsepower. Since there are four divisions, there are four divisional first-place winners. The race has an official timekeeper, judges, and plenty of cheering spectators on land and boats.

Hudson River Tug Race
Tugs prepare for Hudson River race

The festivities start at 10:00 a.m., Pier 84, at West 44th Street and the Hudson River, when the tugs parade to the starting line. Once they get the signal for the race to begin, the spectator boat keeps pace giving passengers a unique view while the competitors travel down river. The large, high-powered tugs cross the finish line first, but historic tugs from the early 20th century prove that they still have what it takes.

Following the race, the tugs have a chance to show what they do best–push and pull other boats. They get ready for a nose-to-nose pushing contest. The winner of each pair is the one moving forward against the force of their opponent. The crews also get a chance to show their skill in the line toss contest.

With the skill and speed portion of the competition over, the tugs tie up at the pier. It’s also time for lunch and the awards ceremony. There is even a “Little Toot” award for the smallest tug in the race. This is followed by amateur contests of spinach eating, favorite tug mascot, and dockside line toss. Winners are acknowledged with awards. Spectators can enjoy the maritime exhibits lining the pier while getting a good look at each boat. This is their chance to take lots of pictures and ask crew members about life aboard a tug.

Hudson River Tug Race
Tugs tied up at Pier 84 after Hudson River race

The day’s events come to a close around 2:00 p.m. The tugs will signal one final “thank you” and “good-bye” with blaring horns sounding in unison. It’s family-friendly and a nice way to end the summer.

This event was founded by Captain Jerry Roberts while he was with the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum. It was hosted by the Intrepid for 13 years, followed by Captain Roberts hosting it himself for awhile. It is now sponsored by the Working Harbor Committee of New York/New Jersey, along with support from many New York area, maritime-related organizations and people, including the founder.

For more information about the Great North River Tugboat Race and Competition, please visit the event website.

Written by: Cynthia Collins, Senior Museum Correspondent

Tugboat Race & Competition Schedule

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