Monday, 14 October 2019

Men abandon 167-mile Thames charity row due to exhaustion

Men abandon 167-mile Thames charity row due to exhaustion

FIVE men had to cut short their bid to row the length of the River Thames for charity.

Guy Fisher, 46, Carlton Barnard, 57, Stuart Burgess, 56, Steve Bridge, 49, and Yonadab Diez-Urkidi, 50, of the Shiplake Outloars rowing club, abandoned their 167-mile voyage exactly two-thirds of the way through.

They realised it would be impossible to finish because they were behind schedule and were going to miss their chance to navigate the final stretch to Gravesend pier in Kent during a favourable tide.

The men were also exhausted from rowing for 37 hours without a break and feared they would not be strong enough to help one another if somebody fell in the water.

Despite this, they raised more than £2,000 for Accessible Boating Thames, which gives disabled people the opportunity to row or sail in adapted boats. They may attempt the feat again in the spring.

The rowers set off at midnight on September 5 from Lechlade in Gloucestershire and hoped to reach Kent within 42 hours. They passed through 38 of the 45 locks en route before calling it a day at Penton Hook Marina, near Chertsey.

They were in a traditional six-seater boat called Zachary and rowed in shifts with each serving as cox for about an hour as the others rowed. Apart from a few breaks to eat, including one at Shiplake College, they rowed non-stop.

Mr Fisher, the club’s founder, said: “It was disappointing not to finish but it became obvious that we were off target. It got very cold at night and it was becoming a bit dangerous, especially tackling the locks. We tried to press on but eventually realised that stopping was the sensible option. Despite that, when we look back, it was enjoyable and rewarding even if it was very tough at points.

“Every member of the crew hit a personal low point but that was bound to happen given the enormity of the task and we each got through it in our own way. The constant effort and lack of sleep were the hardest thing. We were very conscious of nutrition and hydration but the more tired we got, the harder it became to look out for each other.

“We encountered a broken lock near Dorchester and considered giving up but called the lock-keeper and he came out to fix it. He was very gracious and charming about being woken in the dead of night and we’re incredibly thankful for that.

“The cold would creep up on you and it’s hard to stay warm when you’re constantly sweating. The temperature was about 8C but it felt colder than that and there’s only so many times you can change clothes.

“Rowing at night was a challenge — we had a large floodlight to navigate but we’d still hear the boat scraping against objects in the water, which was nerve-wracking.

“It was a relief when the sun came up but I was increasingly concerned about what could happen if one of us fell in. We were wearing lifejackets but I felt we couldn’t be too careful.

“We definitely learned what our bodies are capable of and perhaps the most encouraging thing is the huge support we’ve had from our friends. We’re also very pleased with the money we raised.”

The Accessible Boating Trust is part of the Rivertime Boat Trust, whose flagship vessel Rivertime hosts river cruises for disabled passengers and is moored at the River & Rowing Museum in Henley.

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