On Saturday the Mawddach rowing club, of which I am their newest member, took part in the Great London River Race. The race is 21 miles long from the Isle of Dogs through central London to finish in Richmond. If you are into rowing this is the race to be in.
The race is truly spectacular with over 300 boats taking part this year. These can be anything from dragon boats , skiffs to Celtic long boats. We entered both our boats with a mixed team, of which I was part, and a men’s team. One of the provisions of entry is that as well as the crew you have to carry a passenger, which means that we would be making change over during the race.
The trip down from North Wales and then across central London with a mini bus and two boats on a trailer was long and some times truly crazy – being lost in London whilst towing is not an experience I would recommend. After a night’s camping we made our way back across London to the Isle of Dogs starting line.
We were scheduled to start at 1.05 pm and were on the water by 12.40 – the idea of the race is for the slowest boats to start first and then everyone is in pursuit to the finish. With so many craft on the water and a strong head wind with choppy water there were a few near misses before we had even crossed the line.
Once under way these near misses turned to even closer shaves with oars crashing into each other and a few gentle reminders of the etiquette of not crossing other people’s water. The race seemed to fly past me as did all of London’s famous land marks, I swapped to passenger after an hour and a half and managed to grab a few snaps.
We had agreed that I would be passenger for the remainder of the race, however after half an hour one of our crew started to suffer from an old injury and I took over again for the last eight or so miles.
This last push to the finish was when we all had to dig deep as a crew, counting in the strokes kept the stroke rate up and also improved my Welsh. We crossed the line with a time of 3 hours 15 minutes, which for a mixed team with passengers was respectable but a way behind the winners.
The great thing about rowing is that it involves all ages and abilities, our oldest member is in his 70s. For some it is very completive but for others it’s a great social activity and a way to get out on the water.
I came away with a real sense of achievement, a certificate and a pair of hands covered in blisters.