‘Life at the oar is hard… but short’ Bulldog’s Rob Corney brings us the view from the first day.
There is a line in The Last Kingdom in which Uhtred Ragnarson is told, ‘life at the oar is hard… but short.’ This will come as no surprise to the crew of the London to Paris row.
A stony look spoke volumes across the faces as the rowers assembled at Chelsea Pier to set off on their epic voyage.
Last minute preparations included a rapid Arnica treatment for Graham’s wrist after an unfortunate meeting of moped and Uber driver the day before the row… but most important of all for Salty’s voyage, of course, was the stowing of his Earl Grey tea bags, a must have for any crew attempting a crossing to France!
As the crew embarked the Gallivant, thoughts turned to an appropriate alternate name for our escort boat in light of the generous sponsorship of the vessel by Posh Paws and Whitehouse Leisure. A quick image search for Posh White Escorts revealed a lot of happy looking sailors, but it was generally felt inappropriate, so the Posh House, she became… and never has a crew of rowers felt so grateful for the few hours downtime they get on the Posh House in between rows.
The London 2 Paris was always going to be a massive undertaking – best enjoyed after the event, an 817km row can definitely be considered ‘second degree fun’.
Setting off from the majestic London Bridge at 08:00 with the television cameras circling overhead (for the London Marathon, sadly, rather than the row), even the sun managed to make a brief appearance to see us on our way.
The initial paddle down the Thames went without incident and, with a bit of tidal assistance, the boat made good speed Passing through the Thames Barrier, under the Dartford Crossing and down past Sheerness, going was steady.
As tiredness set in, the Go Bites kindly provided by Go Faster Foods gave a much-needed hit of natural energy and the whole crew was constantly buoyed up by seeing our The Entertainer flag regularly whipping the cox in the face… the Musto jackets from Poetic Brands have been, quite literally life savers in the conditions we’ve faced, but adorned in kit bearing sponsors ranging from Banter Collectables to Brand Licensing Europe 2019, the crew have been a shining beacon of the generosity and determination of the licensing industry.
But then Mother Nature decided to throw her dice again, the wind whipped up, the waves began to lash against the side of the boat and rain the size of golf balls came down to batter the crew. Then, like an avenging angel from the skies, with the white cliffs beckoning, out of the clouds appeared a glorious Spitfire, resplendent in her D-Day markings, flying straight over the gig not once, but twice. And as if seeing off the might of the Luftwaffe were not enough, away with her she took the clouds and the rain and all was well with the world again… until about 1am when, with air support a distant memory, the waves peaked at 2m, the wind howled and life seemed pretty damn tough all round again!
So far, the crew have diced with grounding on a sand bar (I have definitely decided that rowing is more my thing than coxing so apologies to those rowers who scooped up estuary river bed!); everything that nature has to throw at them, and battled genuine fatigue to arrive at Ramsgate. The Channel beckons… Godspeed!