Bulldog’s Rob Corney takes us behind the scenes of the prep for the London to Paris row.
Sunday, March 10 – T minus 48 days
On paper, the basic principles of rowing can seem quite simple: stick it in hard, pull it out wet, repeat. But when you factor in a scratch crew and the small matter of 45 knot cross-winds, you quickly see what happens when you put said paper in water.
After several million metres on ergos, fitness sessions in the gym and technique sessions which saw people Facetiming in for rowing tips, The Light Fund crew finally got a chance to play with Annie (the coastal gig we’ll be rowing in – which can be re-named with your company or brand for a bargain sponsorship fee).
Originally organised for an off-shore session from Ramsgate, gale force winds forced a last-minute change of plans and the crew met up in Kent for the relative safe harbour of Bewl Water. As rowers and sailors alike looked on, muttering sage words which questioned the sanity of rowing with cresting waves all around, Annie dipped a confident bow into the waters and never looked back.
With Lance and Tania (from Dover Sea School) covering the bows in fast rescue boats, just in case, the crew set off for a full day on the water, honing techniques and working out just which bits might need the most medical attention en route to Paris (answer, every bit).
After a half hour row into a headwind which made an Alex Ferguson half-time chat look like the sneeze of a Hummingbird, the crew were happy to turn the boat around and head back across the reservoir with the wind behind them, this time like Donald Campbell in full flow. And so it went on, battling to the west, surfing to the east, but each stroke just a little better than the last.
The geese looked perplexed; the walkers in the picturesque surroundings looked baffled; the seagulls flapped valiantly against the wind, but still flew backwards. But Annie coursed on, through the foaming waters.
With sponsors keen to come on board and support this huge event, the crew pulled with gusto and Annie responded accordingly. Each and every participant is extremely grateful to all the supporters the thought of whom helps to ease blistered hands and sore backs (not to mention the backsides!).
The list of sponsors already includes crew caps (sponsored by H&A), the sleeping bags (sponsored by Dreamtex) and Brand Licensing Europe which has sponsored the Bow Package which will see it feature prominently on the crew clothing, as well as the start and finish lines. More sponsors will be announced this week with a huge number of people looking to back the rowers along the way.
After five hours on the water, interchanging the crew in different positions throughout the boat, the rag tag group which started the day landed back on shore, a fully-fledged and far more confident rowing outfit. Not one person among us underestimates the huge challenge ahead – rowing 815km across some extremely tough water remains an enormous physical and mental undertaking. But having successfully taken to the water amidst a flurry of weather warnings in which even the fish would have preferred to be on land, confidence levels have just crept up a notch.
The London to Paris Light Fund Row is scheduled to leave Tower Bridge on April 27 and aims to arrive in Paris on May 4. The crew will row two hours on, two hours off throughout. A range of sponsorship packages are available for companies to support the event and a brochure is available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Individuals or companies wanting to back the event without taking one of the packages can do so by clicking here.