The London 2 Paris Challenge in 2010 is the perfect example of open water rowing’s most demanding aspects; it requires extreme physical endurance and considerable mental strength. An exhilarating yet humbling experience that reminds me of my insignificance in the vastness of the world.
- 440 nautical miles, (500 land miles, 815 Km) over 6 days
- Six rowers and a cox
- Nine timed stages from Big Ben to the Eiffel Tower
- Escorted by Mike Oram’s safety boat
I looked forward to an interesting and equally punishing journey from Big Ben, down along the River Thames, across the English Channel to La Havre and up the Seine to the finish at the Eiffel tower, a distance of 420 nautical miles.
We rowed an old-fashioned traditional Thames Waterman Cutter; 34ft long, with a beam of 4ft 6”, in timber (clinker-built).
We started from Big Ben, London, rowing our Thames Cutter towards the sea. Rotating six rowers and a cox over stages taking six days; this including brief mid-race pauses to allow for tides, bad weather, locks and we only rowed in daylight on the River Seina.
You observe things differently from on the water, for example the Thames Barrier was much bigger than I expected; the four large central gates are 20.1 metres (66 ft) high and weigh 3,700 tons each.
We saw an astonishing number of grey seals and harbour seals, sunbathing on muddy banks of the lower Thames.
Continuing on to the mouth of the Thames estuary and into the English Channel where we were met with a whole heap of rough water. It was great fun.
You dipped your oar in where and when you could as close to the stroke as possible – put pressure on and squeezed the oar, the fineness’ and technique by all oarsmen became somewhat ragged so I was now a little more equal to all.
Crossing the English Channel in a row boat left me cold, wet tired and with a very different view point! When asked what hurts -‘hands and bum’. (stupid question).
All went wrong when the Gravesend boat took on water and began to sink off Herne Bay, all crew was ok.
Back to Gravesend into a B&B for the night and off to France next morning.
Boat back in the water at Le Havre; 3am start rowing at the mouth of the River Seine.
Rowing from Le Havre up the lower Seine to Paris was most interesting.
On entering the Parisian suburbs we picked up a shadow – an intimidating patrol boat crewed by an elite squad armed and dress all in Black; members of the Brigade Fluviale (Paris River Police).
On 15th May 2010 we crossed at the Eiffel Tower finishing line after rowing for 57 hrs, 52 minutes and 27 second!!!
I want to tell you more about my extraordinary journey.