TWELVE women rowed 125 miles along the River Thames at the weekend and raised more than £4,000 for charity.
Only one member of the Shiplake Outloars crew had any rowing experience prior to the challenge.
The women departed from Lechlade in Gloucestershire at 6.30am on Friday and finished in Teddington at 4pm on Sunday.
They were raising money for the Rivertime Boat Trust, which provides trips for disabled children and adults on a specially-adapted boat.
Katherine Rees, from Harpsden, said: “It was really great — better than we thought it was going to be.
“Saturday was the best day when we came through Henley and Shiplake. There was massive support with husbands and children cycling with us and collecting money.”
Mrs Rees came up with the idea for the challenge after seeing a group of men from Shiplake Outloars complete the Source to Sea River Relay, a 168-mile row from Lechlade to Gravesend.
She gathered a group of friends who are all parents of current or former pupils at Shiplake Primary School — Emma Hillier, Emma Edwards, Parul Scampion, Juliette Staines, Charlotte Moore, Sarah Doyle, Sonia Smith, Amber Renders, Waka Puni, Lucy Herbert and Sarah Blomfield.
Mrs Rees then contacted the Outloars to ask if the women could use their boat Zachary, which is owned by Guy Fisher, from Binfield Heath, who is a volunteer for the trust, and Carlton Barnard, from Wargrave.
Mr Fisher not only agreed but said he would coach the novices. Only former Great Britain dragon boat racer Sarah Doyle, from Shiplake, had any experience.
Mrs Rees, 42, said: “The whole point was to try to include people who did not have any experience of rowing. We started training for two hours a week but it was difficult. We have 28 kids between us. None of us had ever rowed for more than 90 minutes in one go. Guy helped us organise practice sessions but with all the kids and summer holidays it was very difficult to get together.”
During the row six women were in the boat at a time with four rowing and they would rotate every two hours to allow for rest. Each member of the crew rowed about nine hours each day.
Mrs Rees, who has three children with her husband Stephen, said: “Sarah and I did all three days and the others did two days. It was a lovely bonding experience with a lot of memories. The toughest parts were rowing in the pitch black at night and rowing into a headwind, which was blowing at Wallingford on Saturday.
“When we came between Shiplake and Hambleden our families and friends collected £180 from what people had in change.”
During the challenge the crew went through 44 locks and in Sonning were given a speeding ticket by the lock-keeper as a joke. At the finish, they drank champagne.
The proceeds will go towards a new winch that will be used to get people on and off Rivertime.
Mrs Rees said: “Guy, who also has children at Shiplake, is a volunteer for the trust and as it was his boat we wanted to raise money for them. We all get enjoyment from the river so we wanted to raise money so other people can do the same.”
For more information, visit www.shiplakeoutloars.com/the-ladies-thames-row