IT was all hands on deck as Abingdon’s Dragon Boat Festival prepared to take to the River Thames once more.

The annual fundraising spectacle regularly attracts thousands to witness the skill and fancy dress of competitors, who race in a series of heats before one team is crowned the winner.

The event, which will be held this Sunday, is organised by the Rotary Club of Abingdon Vesper and the race is already promising to be as competitive as ever, with 12 teams signed up to take part so far.

Co-organiser and long-serving rotary club member Richard Benton said: "I've been involved for more than 10 years and it's a fantastic way to spend a Sunday, always attracting a great crowd.

"People love to come down and cheer on the teams, who usually enter into the spirit of things and wear costumes."

Previous rowers have dressed as everything from pirates and Romans to bright yellow ducks.

A dragon boat is 40ft long and similar to a long canoe, decorated with a Chinese dragon head and tail.

This year marks 20 years since the race was brought to Abingdon.

Mr Benton said: "It's a great way to raise money and a lot of the teams have individual causes that they are rowing for.

"The important thing is to get people to come out and help us raise as much money as possible to help local causes."

The event has raised more than £430,000 for charity since it was created, with most of this going to local charities supported by both the teams and the Rotary Club of Abingdon Vesper.

The festival is not just about the racing, with a fun fair, art and craft stalls, children's entertainment, a raffle, a BBQ, a real ale beer tent, a tea tent and live music.

The dragon boat racing will take place over a 250m course on the River Thames at Rye Farm Meadow and the winning team will be presented with medals and a trophy.

Entry is free, and the racing starts at about 11am.

Anyone aged 12 or older can take part, and no experience is needed.

Teams consist of about 20 people, including a drummer who beats the rhythm for the rowers.

An experienced member of the event organisation crew steers the boat.

For more information or to enter a team visit