“The last 24 hours have been by far the most challenging that any of the crew have faced in their lives.”
For many members of The Light Fund Row crew, it is no change to the pace of life to be blindly guided along by their cox. But mirth and merriment in the boat has definitely subsided somewhat in favour of a grim determination to get on with the task in hand. And it is that determination which means…
We made it! Nous sommes en France!
Le Havre seemed a million miles away at various points overnight but, having left Ramsgate at 11:00 UK time on Monday, we finally arrived at 10:00 UK time on Wednesday… 47 hours of constant rowing – two hours on the oar, followed by two hours to join the escort boat, wipe down with wet wipes, eat to replace the 1,000+ calories we just used, then try to crash out for the rest of the down time before repeating it all again..
Mother nature continued to challenge the crew, at one point hitting us with 20 degree blazing sun before descending into truly hellish conditions with wind and 2m waves.
When you ask a child to draw a picture of waves, they are generally seen as gentle undulations in a uniform pattern across the page. In reality, they eddy, they dive in and around you, they grow hands and claws desperately grabbing at the end of an oar as if the only thing that sustains them is fresh rower. Thankfully, we did not add to their sustenance… but at some points it was a pretty close call.
A humourless night saw us pretty much rowing to stand still against a fierce current and strong headwinds. When the most positive news that greets you is that two hours of hard rowing has resulted in a net gain of 2 nautical miles, grim faces stare blankly back in the darkness.
The last 24 hours have been by far the most challenging that any of the crew have faced in their lives. Even Barry, who has rowed both the Pacific and Indian Oceans, described it as far more challenging than anything he’s done and even those licensees who have navigated the traumas and pitfalls of a contract with a major US licensor (yes, you know the one) think this challenge is beyond anything they’ve encountered to date.
Crew camaraderie was always going to be the most telling factor on this trip and it definitely saw us through the night. A constant stream of banter in the darkness, coupled with incredible strength and endurance from crew members which saw Adam Robson put in three consecutive two hour shifts and Jenny Honeyball, who is like a pocket battleship forged by the scientists at CERN, constantly ready to put up her hand for more work to help cover our needs, has seen us through.
Rowing at night is a battle of wills – it’s impossible to see the end of the blade so you don’t know if it’s going in square to the water (and if it doesn’t, the water sucks it under and the rower ‘catches a crab’ which is debilitating). Not only that, but the only markers of progress are updates from the support vessels’ instrument panel, or any source of light on land (during the brief moments over the last 48 hours when we’ve been close enough to see land).
Trigonometry is not your friend when you are using lights as a marker. At one time seemingly miles behind the boat, indicating progress, but then as the boat shifts slightly in the waves, changing the relative angle to the light, looking to be miles in front as if you’ve been shunted backwards for miles by the strength of the sea.
All the crew can do is knuckle down and keep going… and that’s what we did… and that’s why we’re now here, in Le Havre, where Elliott and Adam leave us to be replaced by Sam Ferguson and Rob Broadhurst.
Hopefully some fresh arms and new bants will spur a battered crew on to some great achievements tomorrow as The Entertainer flag continues to fly proudly over the rowers and Radda brings along a supply of fresh fruit and much needed medical products.