Saturday the 9th saw the 30th Great River Race on the tidal Thames. It would be tempting to record the Great River Race as a selection of numbers. 21.6 miles rowed along the tidal Thames in 20’ long wooden boats, powered by 14’ long spruce oars. Over 320 competing crews, all rowing traditional craft with fixed seats and at least 4 oars. Just 6 people per boat and for those crews under 18, the adult cox is not allowed to row - meaning just one young person resting at any moment.
But it is far more than that. It is one of the great rowing challenges available. Starting in Docklands, racing under Tower Bridge, through the London bridges, past the London Eye and Parliament before a greulling row through Putney, Barnes & Richmond to the finish below Ham House.
Warspite had 4 crews competing in 2017 and all faced different challenges. The one common challenge facing them all was the weather. A blustery, westerly wind blew down the course - building a chop and making even the later reaches into Richmond a hard pull. Interspersed over the course were sharp showers and even thunderstorms.
Our gig Lamb was being rowed by a team of former young people who were challenging themselves to complete the event as adults. As our only over 18 team, the six old sea scouts had the weight of expectation on them - and they didn’t disappoint. They led the Warspite pack and powered across the line in an official time of 3 hours and 32 minutes.
The Explorer Scouts were represented by the “Warspite Pixies” team. Mark, Mya, Abi, Jess & James rowed Onrad and were coxed by Sophie, in her debut as a cox, having competed many times as a Scout and Explorer. She said “I am extremely proud of every single one of the crew. They pushed through the whole race, no matter what difficulty hit us with an amazing time, especially the bug waves at the start and the thunder and lightning which came at the hardest stretch of the race. Their spirits remained high and we had a ball.” The team were 3rd in the under 16 category of the race and achieved a time of 3 hours and 40 minutes.
A second under 16 team was coxed by Lauren and made up of many of our older Scouts. Billy, Oscar, Daniel, Ben A and Bruce were rowing Vanessa. In keeping with a long standing group tradition, this team is known as the Warspite Fairies. Lauren remarked “Not only did the boys give it everything they had to make it over that finish line, but we managed to beat our time from last year, which was a great achievement. Well done to all of you. It was a pleasure to be your Cox and I hope your blisters are not too sore!”
Our fourth team competed in the under 14 category, achieving a very credible 3rd place in their age group. Connie, Jacob, Ben C, Ollie & Paul showed real grit. Their cox Dean observed “the start of the race went well, with only a slight bump near Tower Bridge. But this was not a problem with this crew. They brushed themselves off and continued on, straight into choppy waters, which at times felt like we were airborne. But again, this was nothing for this young crew. With no real dramas it was pretty much plain selling, or rowing as the case may be! As Richmond lock approached, the crew stepped it up a gear, and powered through to the end. Fantastic rowing today, by fantastic young rowers.”
All Scouts promise “to do their best” and to obey the Scout Laws - including having self respect, respect for others, courage and loyalty. You cannot compete in and complete this challenge without these attributes. All 4 teams gave fantastic demonstrations of what these words mean in the real world and provide an inspiration for the rest of us.
For pictures of the event, please see https://warspite.smugmug.com/GRR/2017-Great-River-Race/ (password: fancourt) and there is a video here: https://youtu.be/A5hF_JTyz3I
Well done as well to our support teams - both those travelling down river in the middle of the night and those supporting our teams and the whole race on the way back.