By Keira Daley
27 May 2010
Two rowing teams – an all-male crew of four and an all-female crew of four – will set off next Tuesday from Tower Bridge in London in an attempt to row non-stop, without assistance, on a 2,010-mile course around mainland Great Britain. The event, sponsored by Virgin, is a precursor to a round-Britain race planned for 2011 that is expected to attract an international field of up to 20 boats.
The crews will battle against some of the Britain’s unforgiving tides and in the busiest shipping lanes while enduring Britain’s notoriously unpredictable, inhospitable weather.
The first team to return to Tower Bridge will win £15,000 and claim the Virgin Trophy. The winning team will receive a £30,000 bonus if they break the existing world record, which stands at 26 days, 21 hours and 14 minutes. Only one crew has successfully rowed non-stop around Britain. In 2005 they endured Force eight gales with 50-foot waves, narrowly missing being capsized in the North Sea by a freak wave to complete the journey.
The second boat will collect £6,000 if they complete the course and cross the finishing line on the River Thames in London. If the women’s team complete the journey they will set a new record by becoming the first women ever to row non-stop around the Great Britain.
Virgin Group’s chairman, Sir Richard Branson, will meet the crews aboard HMS Belfast at 10am on the morning of the race, which will begin at 5.30pm.
“At Virgin we love to encourage people to take on challenges and we’re delighted to be able to offer the Virgin Trophy as a prize in this amazing race, where the rowers will face the most incredible challenges to reach the finishing line,” Branson said.
The women’s team, nicknamed the SeaGals, includes a 23-year-old Royal Navy nurse currently awaiting posting to Afghanistan, a film maker, a wheelchair-bound ex-Marine grandmother, and an IT support manager. They are currently training in the Solent in their 24-foot-long boat, Go Commando.
The men’s team, aka The Misfits, are led by experienced ocean rower, Olly Hicks, and includes a Falklands veteran, a wild boar breeder and a virgin competitive rower. The men have been putting their boat, Orca, through its paces in the Solent. More information can be found at the race website.
The crews are not allowed to receive any outside assistance, or pit-stop in ports. They will carry all their food for the journey and use a special on-board water maker that turns sea into drinking water.
The race has been organised by the Anglo American Boat Club, whose president is William de Laszlo, skipper of the team that set the round-Britain rowing record in 2005.
Start: London Tower Bridge, down the Thames then on towards Dover.
South coast: passing Brighton, Portsmouth, Weymouth and Plymouth.
South West: round Lands End then up to Wales and Cardigan Bay and on to Anglesey.
North-west Scotland: through the Irish Sea and the Isle Of Man and the Inner Hebrides.
North-east: round the Pentland Firth, across the Moray Firth and passed Aberdeen.
East: north Sea passing Newcastle, then Hull and on towards Lowestoft in Norfolk.
Final sprint: up the Thames to finish at Tower Bridge in London.
In the summer of 2005, Grenadier Guards officer Lt William de Laszlo, Lt Ben Jesty, Sgt James Bastin and civilian Will Turnage became the first people ever to row around Great Britain. It took them 26 days 21 hours and 14 minutes.
An attempt to break the record last summer was abandoned in the Irish Sea. The crew helped to rescue a light plane that crashed into the sea near them.
GB ROW is being run by the Anglo American Boat Club, named after an historic race, launched in 1872 when the Atlanta Rowing Club of New York travelled to England to challenge the London Rowing Club on the Thames.
The English four-man team won the first race on the Thames but more than held their own when the race moved to the USA. The Anglo-American race died out with the advent of World War II.