The Boats on Wheels races are held in Lubeck on the third week of August. The races are a throwback to the times when the Vikings used to regularly invade Western Europe and citizens had to either fight to the death or leave the area immediately.

The boats in the races must be vessels that can be used on water i.e. the wheels must be detachable and not fixed to the boat. There are categories for rowing boats, canoes, and small fishing boats. The boats are propelled along the streets using oars with rubber ends so that the wood doesn’t splinter on the concrete or tarmac. Rowing boats are single occupancy, canoes have two rowers, and fishing boats have between four and six crew members depending on the size of the boat.

There are a number of races in each category for both men and women depending on contestant’s ages. The U-21 race is over 5 miles, the 21-30 race is for 7.5 miles, and the 31 and above race is a distance of 10 miles. In most years, the number of contestants in each category is between 750 and 1000 split evenly between each age range.