What's the big deal?
I came up with the idea of The Solo Sea to City Row as a new challenge with which I could raise money for Cancer Research UK in memory of my Mum. But what's so challenging about it? The distance? The route? The boat? Those are just the beginning...
After fighting cancer for 22 years, my Mum died in April 2015. It was following this that I decided I wanted to put together a solo fundraising challenge to raise money for Cancer Research UK, and after some time I happened to come across a charity that organises cross-Channel rows. While I wouldn't claim to be any kind of seasoned rower, I rowed for my McGill University in Montreal in my first year, some 14 years ago, and immediately thought this to be a good opportunity to get back on the water doing something I always found both challenging and rewarding.
...most people I've approached, from seasoned rowers to rowing clubs, have said that this cannot be done. This is the first time this has ever been done, and I hope to set a Guinness World Record in the process.
After some research I could only find three people on record who had rowed the Channel in a fine shell, or olympic class, single scull, and although this had become my original goal, French authorities have stopped all unorthodox crossings of the Channel in recent years, and so I set my sights on an even bigger challenge: an endurance row from Southend Pier, in the mouth of The Thames, to Big Ben, a total distance of 45 miles (72km) in open water and the tidal Thames.
So what's the big deal? Firstly, endurance rowing in an olympic class single scull is rare. A standard race is 2km, which takes somewhere around seven minutes, and what I'm facing is 72km, potentially a total time of nine hours. On top of this, I will be rowing in the tidal Thames, and starting in relatively open water. Any potential choppy water or wind over 10-15mph will make the start nearly impossible; this is not considered the 'navigable Thames' in relation to this type of rowing. The boat itself is 8 metres long and just 30cm wide, incredibly light, and designed for flat water much further inland. Throughout the row I will also have to be accompanied by a support boat and medic. These factors alone have meant that most people I've approached, from seasoned rowers to rowing clubs, have said that it can't be done. This is the first time this has ever been done, and I hope to set a Guinness World Record in the process.
My own experience also comes into question; I have only rowed in an 8, sweep rowing (one oar), 14 years ago. The major hurdle I have at this stage is building up the technical skill needed to adapt to the lighter, less stable boat, and the sculling technique (two oars). My first time on the water in a single this week made this challenge very, very real to me; there is a lot of work ahead to get to a smooth rowing technique on even flat water.
I'm looking at a huge task ahead of me, a lot of training on and off the water, and people saying it can't be done...thankfully I'm stubborn enough that when I hear that, I become all the more determined. It's this determination and the goal of raising £10,000 for Cancer Research UK in my Mum's memory that will motivate me every day to complete The Solo Sea to City Row.