Sunday, 22 September 2019

‘Outloars’ to row Thames in two days for charity

‘Outloars’ to row Thames in two days for charity

FIVE men from Shiplake and Wargrave are 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, hope to complete the 167-mile journey in about 42 hours.

They will set off at midnight on Thursday from Lechlade in Gloucestershire, the nearest navigable spot from the river’s source at Kemble, and pass through 45 locks as they make their way to Gravesend pier in Kent.

The men hope to raise £10,000 for Accessible Boating Thames, which gives disabled people the opportunity to row or sail in adapted boats.

It is an offshoot 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.

The Outloars will be in Zachary, a traditional six-seater rowing boat, which four of them will row at a time while the fifth serves as cox.

They will pass through each lock on the water as the boat is too heavy to carry and will have most of the food they need on board, although supporters will provide supplies at several points.

The men plan to row almost non-stop, eating while waiting at locks, but may take a break for a shower, hot meal and change of clothes at Bisham Abbey, near Marlow.

They will have to pass Tower Bridge in London by 10.30am next Friday or they will be unable to finish due to a change in the tide.

Mr Fisher, the club’s founder, said: “This has been brewing for a few years now as it’s something we’ve always wanted to do. It has got to the stage where we have to do it now or we’ll be too old! We’re not going for any kind of record as it will be enough of a challenge simply to complete it. It’s not going to be a walk in the park by any means.

“We’ll be pretty self-sufficient and for the most part will just keep rowing until we get to the finish. There’s a lot of pressure to clear Tower Bridge on time as the whole journey hinges on that.

“The hardest thing will definitely be going without sleep for such a long time. It’s what we’re most worried about because that’s mentally very tough, even without having to row.”

The rowers have been training separately as they have had family commitments over the summer.

Mr Fisher said: “We’re generally in pretty good shape and most of us have been doing a bit of additional training but there’s still the concern that our bodies might not be able to cope.

“There’s also the worry about navigating at night because it’s going to be pitch black in places and we’ll hardly be able to see where we’re going. You can only train so much for something like this as you’ve got no idea how that combination of endurance rowing and sleep deprivation is going to hit you until you face it. We also don’t know what the weather will throw at us.

“We’re also going to get very stiff from such a prolonged effort and we’ll have to make sure we’re stretching when we can to avoid cramping.

“I’ve done long-distance challenges before and really you just have to get your head down, stay mentally ‘in the zone’ and just keep yourself going.”

Mr Fisher, a volunteer for Rivertime, said: “I’ve been involved for 10 years now and it fits with this challenge.

“It’s a way of giving back to life on the river and giving others the chance to enjoy it as we do. All the money will go directly to helping disabled users.”

To support the rowers, visit

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