On Saturday the 14th September, 314 boats and their crews gathered at London’s Isle of Dogs in the heat of an Indian Summer ready to race the 21.6 miles through the centre of London to Ham in Surrey.
Amongst them an intrepid band of 8 Bristol Gig Club rowers. What a spectacle the start line was, with many crews in fancy dress and all manner of traditional boats flying the compulsory flag (ours was a rather splendid City of Bristol Coat of Arms).
Amidst the seemingly chaotic throng we made it to the start line bang on our allocated start time and away we went through choppy waters, managing to avoid a clash of oars with those around us vying for water. It was somewhat disconcerting to pass an unfortunate crew whose boat had sunk only 20 minutes from the start (they were swiftly plucked from the water by a support boat) but we powered on through to the glorious spectacle of Tower Bridge.
As we pressed on through the heat it was incredible to pass so many landmarks such as the Tower of London, Tate Modern, the London Eye, Big Ben, Kew Gardens and on to Richmond. There was great support along the way including cheering from bridges, fireworks and glitter bombs. We even managed a final sprint and were told from our supporters that we looked strong at the finish.
The heat was energy sapping and our hands (amongst other things!) were blistered but what a sense of achievement to bring Wapping home in 2 hours 57 minutes. The only downside was the chaos in the car park at the end which meant we couldn’t get our trailer to the crane. Consequently we had to heave WW out of the Thames ourselves though with help and support from crews around us. The camaraderie really was a highlight. That blip was soon forgotten.