Hoi Larntan’s latest adventure took us to London’s Docklands. Friday evening Mark and Victoria delivered her to the launching area. Here she is on the right with Coigach’s two World Championship Gold medal winning boats, down from Scotland, in blue to the left. Later we were joined by the Dutch team and their boat.
Midday Saturday and 320 boats managed to get down the single slipway and congregate downriver of the start. Ranging from 14ft rowing boats (one from Burnham Overy), through whalers and Dutch Royal Navy 12-oared craft, Irish Curraghs from Cork, to the beautiful 32ft Cornish Pilot gigs and the pencil slim, overcrowded Dragon boats complete with rhythm-keeping drummer on board. The presence of our friends from Langstone Cutters and from Brightlingsea (Harkers Yard cold moulded skiffs) along with others who have attended the Carrow cup in Norwich (December!!) meant there was no lack of banter and bragging.
We were there largely for the experience but a time of 3 hours or less and not being the last St Ayles skiff were unspoken targets.
Not long waiting to be called – slowest boats (lowest numbers) first – we were number 95 – then off with a goodly flood tide under us and Tower Bridge went past in a flash.
We managed to swap our crew positions round every 20 minutes without incident and slowly we overhauled many of the slower boats. In turn we were caught by the bigger gigs and dragon boats. London Bridge, Battersea, Chelsea, Putney, Barnes, (the University Boat Race course seems very short!!) – all very evocative names – and then Richmond, round the corner and there was Ham and the finish line. 3 hours and 2 minutes – well we nearly made it.
The Scottish skiffs were way ahead but we left our Dutch colleagues far behind. Thank goodness for the seat cushions! Mark’s blisters were a sight (preferably not to be seen). Arriving en masse, as the majority of the 320 entrants reached the finish within 40 minutes of each other, recovering boats on a single narrow slipway into a field was interesting to say the least. Smart work by Mark who had delivered the trailer on Friday and luckily we were called in fairly promptly.
The number of people saying they would never do it again was matched only by the number of people you knew would be back next year to do it all over again. Exhausting but a great sight – the London city skyline and then the leafy suburbs – the sheer number of boats and flags and smiling faces.
The Crew of Victoria, Antonia, Adrian, Mark, Dan and Ian would like to thank everyone who sponsored our row and helped us to raise money for further research into Prostate Cancer. Watch this site to see our final total.