Rowing around the Isle of Wight
Ryde Rowing Club has a long tradition of rowing the fifty-eight miles around the Isle of Wight. Since 1880, 14 crew boats and one single sculler have completed the row and they hold the fixed seat for record of eight hours six minutes in set 1965; the fastest time in a coastal four of seven hours fifty-seven minutes set in 1995 and the single sculling record of seven hours fifty-two minutes set in 2005 by Nick Pike. The club were the first to complete the row in a coastal four in 1979 and had the only all ladies crew to complete the row in 1999 and the youngest ever crew, with an average age of eighteen, in 2003.
The plan this year was to be the first club to complete the row in a coxless, coastal quad, which, weather permitting was likely to be a fast combination and challenge the fastest time for a four oared boat of seven hours, seven hours fifty-seven minutes, the fastest Ryde time of seven hours fifty-two minutes and the fastest time for rowing or sculling around the Island of six hours forty-eight minutes set by Guernsey Rowing Club in 2002 in a coxed six man sculling boat.
The crew for the challenge was the club’s senior veteran scullers – Mike Jenner, Russell Page, Nick Pike and Ian Hayden – all very experienced scullers, with a number of Hants & Dorset ARA Championships between them. The Boat used – a Burgashell Coastal 4+/4x+ – with the steering fixed – called "Pat" and was named after Pat Sherwin, MBE, who among his many achievements in the sport, had also rowed around the Island several times.
With the competitive coastal season over the window of opportunity to complete the row was identified as being between the 26th September and 30th October – and it was then just a matter of waiting for suitable weather conditions. As the first date approached it became quite clear that they were unlikely to have better weather and calmer conditions than those predicted for the first day – and so, although the neap tide would probably have a negative impact on the time, it was decided to make the attempt at the first available opportunity – Saturday 26th September.
The chosen start point was Bembridge Lifeboat Station Pier which the crew left at 6.15am, to make the most of the tidal flow and heading towards Ryde, where their safety boat met them, to circumnavigate the Island in an anti-clockwise direction. Although there was a slight offshore breeze the conditions were very calm and the crew made good headway, stopping briefly every ten minutes to take on fluids. They were caught by a large wash from a passing tanker just off Fishbourne which they had to ride out having taken on some water but they still arrived off Cowes after an hour and a half’s sculling and on schedule for a record breaking row. The good conditions continued through to the Needles, reached in three hours twenty-three minutes – but with little tidal flow to help and this was down on a record breaking schedule. Rounding the Needles conditions began to deteriorate and the crew, without a coxswain, had difficulty holding their course. They arrived of St. Catherine’s Point at 11.37am after five hours and twenty-two minutes sculling. Having coped with the tidal race off St. Catherine’s they headed for Ventnor in improving conditions, with some tidal flow in their favour. Passing Dunose Point and heading across Sandown Bay they were making good time and felt that a record time might just still be on. There was just enough water to scull over Bembridge Ledge although the safety Boat had to go out to sea – meeting them again at the Bembridge Lifeboat Pier where they completed the row in a time of seven hours four minutes – just sixteen minutes outside the record – but establishing a record for a coastal coxless quad, setting a new record for a four and beating all previous times by the Ryde Club.
The crew and club would like to acknowledge and thank Clark Mechanical for the loan of the safety boat plus its crew of John Hayden, James Cleary and John Gedling and Martin Woodward for providing the base for the attempt to start from and finish at.
The club is also hoping that this challenging row will raise some funds through donations for their nominated charity the Naomi House Children’s Hospice. Donations can be sent to the club or made via the Just Giving website