Last week I took to the water for the charity row – so I thought it is only fair I share an update with you on how we got on.
Firstly, we all made our way to the start line and met our Cox for the day – a different person from who had trained us for the session but we were sure that wouldn’t matter. We came prepared with water, tape, gloves, waterproof bags for valuables and jelly babies. All bases were covered and we were ready to hit the water.
A short health and safety brief was carried out in which the rule no overtaking through bridges was shared. Our Cox politely said if we were being overtaken it is a sign we weren’t doing well.
We then made our way down to the jetty ready to board the boat. As the speedboat came in to pick us up I sensibly asked if there was a way to load the boat to make us jumping into the rowing boat easier – we jumped in based on numbers, unloaded into the rowing boat – my idea was congratulated and a job offer made! Oars were then passed down the boat in preparation for the race. But first, we had to make it to the start line – hardly a two-minute job! Once the hooter sounded (scared the life out of you) we were off. Racing our way down the Thames. We were the last boat to start – so no chance of being overtaken. All the boats were staggered so we couldn’t see how well the others were catching us. We started out by Chelsea rowing under various bridges and past landmarks.
By Lambeth bridge, the muscles knew they were working – it was at this point I thought the best way to boost morale was to share some top trivia. I shared a fact relating to the colour of the bridges and Michael Jackson at this point, we carried on cruising for knowledge about hanging and pubs to be shared – the key details of any trip down the river. At various points, people on bridges or riverside pubs gave the necessary encourage, while others on the boat gave the less-necessary waves back.
Our Cox informed us we were five minutes away from the finish – I don’t believe it was quite 5 minutes. Longest 5 minutes I’ve encountered. By this time the tape has all unravelled on my hands and I’m trying to shuffle around on my seat to find a more comfortable position for my bum and then the hooter goes. We had finished. Naturally, question one to the Cox “do you think we came last?” A less than reassuring “we will have to see how the others have done” was not the ringing endorsement we had hoped for.
A speedboat soon came and picked us up before dropping us back at the edge of the river, a quick jump off the boat filled the boots with Thames water, round the corner was booze to fill us with – a much better deal. It was here other members from the charity greeted us with medals and a photo op – not the best time for one!
A ceremony was held after the event including the announcement of the result – we weren’t the quickest, but we also weren’t a boat of purely muscly men. Our time of 1 hour 11 minutes and 42 seconds was 10 minutes behind 3rd – out of 12 teams and only 2 went under an hour. This was a respectable time – but in a challenge like this, it really is the taking part that counts. While the racing aspect brings some added competition we are raising money for charity. Part of the ceremony included testimonials from people who had felt the benefit of the charities work. One such case study is “I’ve lived on my own since I was 16 – I have one brother and ten half-siblings and no contact with my mum or dad. From a young age I witnessed domestic violence and sexual abuse and from 12 was put in care. I was bullied at school and had a low attendance of 30%, however, I kept studying and managed to volunteer for a number of organisations and pass some GCSEs. I’m enjoying being an AHOY apprentice more than anything else – they have been a step-ladder to achievements. More than that I’ve finally found a “family” that I feel a part of. After years of never belonging, I have positive people around me and something to look forward to – it’s just amazing.
If I had to sum up the experience in one sentence – rather than an 800-word blog it would be “As sweaty as the tube but a much better way to see the sights of London” – If that isn’t an advertising campaign the Ahoy centre want to steal I don’t know what is!
Finally, a huge thanks to those of you who have sponsored the efforts of the team as we made our way down the Thames. For those of you who frequently travel by tube – on the tube map we went from Imperial Wharf to Greenwich – city mapper reliably tells me this will take over an hour by multiple tubes – so maybe you should row that route too!