On Saturday 3rd September Lower Thames Rowing Club once again entered the Great River Race. Having started in 1988, the spectacular 21 mile course from London Docklands to Richmond now attracts over 330 crews from around the world. The Great River Race now has firmly established itself in the sporting calendar to such an extent that experienced crews describe it as a classic event – the one they all want to win.
Last year saw LTRC attain their highest ever placing, 3rd overall…..could they do better this year? The purchasing of a new Celtic Longboat earlier this year meant the club could enter into another class of boats which have traditionally been very fast and always in and around the top 5 finishers.
So, having loaded 6 boats onto the trailers plus oars, bags, cushions and whatever else was needed, the crew coach set off for Poplar Rowing Club at very early O’clock on the Saturday morning. Once there the boats were unloaded, prepped for the race and crews registered. Everything was ready with some four hours to spare…..which gave everyone a chance to relax with a coffee and bacon sandwich. Once again Poplar RC kindly allowed us to use their facilities for which we are very grateful.
Leigh-Ho and Renown were due off at 12.50, with the Gigs and Celtic following on around 20 minutes later. The conditions changed rapidly on the day – the brilliant sunshine disappeared and south-westerly wind got stronger. Wind over a flooding tide means only 1 thing….waves, lots of them. The experienced crews knew it would be a little rough at the beginning, however, weren’t quite prepared for how long the waves would continue. The first 5 or 6 miles were an out and out slog, yes we were with the tide but constantly fighting the winds and waves. These conditions really suited some of the bigger boats such as Cornish Pilot Gigs – they literally tore through the waves and chased down then leaders
It was quite evident from an early stage that a top 5 or even top 10 finish for the skiffs would be very difficult. Despite passing most of the boats that started the race early, one by one some of the fast Pilot Gigs and larger ‘tubs’ came through. The first Celtic came past, and then another few….would our Celtic crew pass the Skiffs? The Gigs were starting amongst some quick boats….the months of training and prep really were going to be tested.
After a very hard row all of the LTRC boats one by one went over the finish line. It was a gruelling race, conditions were not favourable for our boats and there were some very well trained competition. Every single LTRC rower gave it their all, the tired and weary faces very much showed there was nothing left to give. The usual chaos of getting 330 boats out of the Thames using two slipways was accompanied by heavy rain. Eventually all 6 boats were stripped down and loaded onto the trailers. There wasn’t a dry crew member to be seen, well, apart from Tony.P who gave the row slightly more than his all and was sent to rest on the coach.
Once again the catering crew did a fantastic job looking after the hungry and thirsty rowers…..they even erected some temporary shelter for us all to stay out of the rain. Without you guys we really would be lost, so a massive massive thank you for your efforts. The coach full of tired and blistered rowers left around 7.15…..ironically the journey home took longer then all crews did to complete the race.
So, how did we do? The results are shown below. Leigh Ho managed to get 3rd in their class and the first outing of our Celtic saw the crew get 2nd in theirs. A fantastic achievement.
Well done to everyone who raced – a great effort all round. Here’s to next year…..I wonder what 2017 will hold for us!?!
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Leigh Ho Near the finish at Richmond