A COLOURFUL collection of costumed rowers are getting ready to make a splash in Abingdon this weekend.

Teams will compete in the 20th Dragon Boat Festival on Sunday, taking to the River Thames for a series of races to raise money for good causes.

The annual event is organised by the Rotary Club of Abingdon Vesper and promises to be as exciting as ever with 17 teams signed up to go head-to-head on the day.

They will be racing in dragon boats, 40ft long vessels similar to a long canoe and decorated with a Chinese dragon head and tail.

Many will be in fancy dress, with previous rowers having dressed as everything from pirates and Romans to bright yellow ducks as they battled it out.

Co-organiser and long-serving rotary club member Richard Benton said: "We are really looking forward to this year's race.

"It is looking like we should have good weather and with a big line up of teams taking part it should prove a competitive year."

He added this year’s races will be particularly exciting with four teams from the army taking on each other, as well as a host of other local organisations, including winners from previous races.

Since the festival started it has raised more than £500,000 for charity.

Most of this gone to support both the teams’ local charities, and the charities supported by the Rotary Club of Abingdon Vesper.

Mr Benton said: "When you start something like this you always hope it will be well received but this event has surpassed what we could have anticipated and has for many years now been our biggest fundraising event of the year.

"It is great to have a family day out that is for such good causes."

The dragon boat racing takes place over a 250-metre course on the River Thames at Rye Farm Meadow, starting near the Abingdon Lock, and finishing near the Abingdon Bridge.

Charities being supported this year include The Army Benevolent Fund, See Saw, Thames Valley Air Ambulance and the Rotary Club of Abingdon Vesper

The festival is not just about the racing, with a fun filled day for the supporters and spectators who also come along to cheer on the rowers.

There will be lots of other entertainment taking place, with musicians, a fun fair, children’s activities, a real ale bar, barbecue and tea tent, plus lots of community stalls promoting their causes.

Entry to the event is free, and the racing starts at around 11am.

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

It is too late to sign up to take part in this year's event but for more information visit abingdondragonboats.org.uk